In 1932, Anna is a psychiatric nurse at a Baltimore clinic. Though excellent at her job and somewhat content in her daily life, she very much still grieves the loss of her husband and daughter. Her husband, Ben, fought in the Great War and never came home. Her daughter, lost to illness shortly after. The grief pours out of Anna when confronted with anything outside of her comfort zone and it restricts her to a rigid way of life.
When the famous Zelda Fitzgerald is admitted to Anna's hospital, having been diagnosed with schizophrenia, Anna makes the health and well-being of the woman her new mission -- and actually kind of likes her. What begins as a well-intentioned nurse/patient relationship evolves into an almost obsession on both the end of both women. Anna needs Zelda to be well and Zelda simply cannot be. Zelda needs Anna to help tell her story.
The characters were beautifully written and incredibly complex. I wanted to wrap my arms around Anna and both comfort her and shake her, because I could definitely see myself within her. I've felt the pain of a lost child and know that when an outlet for the grief comes along, taking it is a necessity. Zelda was Anna's outlet.
Zelda was both amazingly vivacious and yet overcome with madness and insecurity in the wake of her illness. I appreciated her being the secondary character in the story and Robuck allowing for the fictional character to take over. I didn't know much at all about Zelda Fitzgerald before reading this book, but I'm definitely hungry to know more. She led a tragically fascinating life.
Erika Robuck has a talent for writing historical fiction, that's for sure! After reading her first novel, Hemingway's Girl, I not only read my first Hemingway book (The Old Man and the Sea), but I also browsed several biographies on the author and learned more about his life. I plan to do the exact same thing with the Fitzgerald family.
If an author writes a fictionalized account of a person, a family, or a time period and that book results in the reader doing research on what they've just read...well, that's the mark of a successful writer. Call Me Zelda gets 5 stars from me!
Thank you to Penguin for the review copy! I loved it so much, I bought my own copy on publishing day.