'Round Midnight

As a young, headstrong girl in her small New Jersey town, June Stein hungered for a different life. She never expected to end up as the joint owner of a successful Las Vegas casino. But the El Capitan hotel and casino--with its nightclub, the Midnight Room--becomes June's home, her livelihood and, ultimately, her undoing. In her second novel, 'Round Midnight, Laura McBride braids a compelling, heartbreaking narrative of four women--June, Honorata, Engracia and Coral--whose lives are transformed by the El Capitan.

McBride (We Are Called to Rise) depicts the tumultuous growth of Las Vegas from the 1950s to the present day, and draws her protagonists with a deft hand--though June and Coral are more vivid than the others. Placing each character in a different era allows McBride to explore the shifting, complicated racial politics and economic realities of life as a local during the city's evolution from upstart boomtown to flashy desert metropolis. Each woman is ultimately motivated not by money, but by family: the one she leaves, the one she loses and the one she creates for herself. All four women, especially June, must reckon with the consequences of their own choices, and the novel's conclusion, though abrupt, draws their stories together nicely. McBride is skilled at handling multiple narrative threads, but more simply, she knows how to do what Vegas does: lure a passerby in, hook them with a good story and leave them wanting more. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

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