Johnnie Come Lately, by Kathleen M. Rodgers: Love, Loss, and Second Chances

johnnieJohnnie Come Lately ($14.95, 292 pp., ISBN: 978-1-60381-215-3), is a work of Women’s Contemporary fiction by Kathleen M. Rodgers. Despite an outwardly happy existence as a wife and mother, Johnnie Kitchen yearns for a way to fulfill her dreams and end her nightmares.

** First Place in Women’s Fiction for 2016 Texas Association of Authors Best Book Award **

** Gold Medal winner of the Military Writers Society of America 2015 Book Awards **

** Bronze medal winner in the Readers’ Favorite 2015 Book Awards–Women’s Fiction Category. Click here for a list of winners **

Click here to listen to excerpts from Johnnie Come Lately read by Kathleen on Authors’ Corner.

Johnnie Come Lately’s cover is one of eight winners in Southern Writers Magazine‘s Cover Contest.

Follow the Johnnie Come Lately blog tour in July, 2015.

** Click the cover image to order online **

** Order it in Kindle, Nook, or other eBook formats on Smashwords **

Now available in Audiobook.

Rodgers is the winner of the 2009 MWSA Silver Medal Award for Fiction and the 2010 William E. Mayer Literary Award. Her first novel, The Final Salute, was featured in USA Today, The Associated Press, and Military Times. It reached #1 on Amazon’s Top-Rated War Fiction list and was a Book of the Month selection for the Army Wife Network.

5 Stars: “Kathleen M. Rodgers writes a poignant story in Johnnie Come Lately. Powerful! Beautiful! Heartrending! Through the lives of her characters, Rodgers reveals the joys and burdens of motherhood, the trauma of war, and the ongoing battle of an eating disorder…. Rodgers [speaks] directly to the heart of the reader. Warriors fight, they become battle weary, they lay down their lives for others. Some of the greatest warriors are mothers, they battle worry, fear and regret. They sacrifice all they are for their loved ones. Johnnie Come Lately portrays one woman’s will to overcome life’s tribulations through the power of love and the security of hope.”  Read more….

—Cheryl E. Rodriguez for Readers’ Favorite

5 Stars: “Ms. Rodgers ability to lend heart and soul to each character is a rare gift and I closed the book with not just tears in my eyes, but with the feeling I had just witnessed the most intimate parts of a stranger’s life, rendering them no longer a stranger. I closed the pages with sadness for the small tragedies that can define our human condition, yet with hope for the transforming power of forgiveness. This is a remarkable piece of writing.”  Read more….

—LB Johnson, award-winning author of The Book of Barkley

“The plot, with its unraveling familial mysteries, makes the book easy to read. The writing is clear and detailed without being floral. The suburban Texan town is written in such detail that the setting becomes an integral character itself…. I recommend this to anyone, but I especially recommend this to women. Because the book revolves so much around character of Johnnie, I think the people most likely to empathize with her will get the most from it. It would be a good pick for women’s book clubs and church book clubs as well.”  Read more….

—Wendy Wilkinson, Wendy Reads Books

“Johnnie Come Lately takes the reader on a passionate rollercoaster of redemption through brute honesty. The telling is full of raw emotion which touches the reader through myriad sensations. I found myself crying, amused, animated, and angered… and full of anticipation. I look forward to reading Kathleen M. Rodger’s next book.”  Read more….

—Sandra Linhart, Military Writers Society of America (MWSA)

“Kathleen M Rodgers book is truly an inspiration to anyone who has gone through an eating disorder …. Johnnie Come Lately is a great book. It’s a little hard to read this and not feel for the characters.”  Read more….

—Sharon Salituro, Fresh Fiction

“An unforgettable book…. Rodgers unrolls this story in style, perfectly segueing one thread to the next in a fashion that keeps you turning the pages until a very satisfying end that ties it all back together and answers the questions that teased you throughout the book. Want great storytelling? Read this book.”  Read more….

–The blog of Keith Jones, author of The Boys of Diamond Hill and In Due Time

“A rich new voice has exploded in the South. Kathleen M. Rodgers creates beautifully flawed characters that remain with the reader for long after the novel is finished.”

—Ann Hite, 2012 Georgia Author of the Year for Ghost on Black Mountain

“By the end of the novel, Johnnie Kitchen had become my friend, one that I am sad to be without now that Johnnie Come Lately is off my nightstand and back on my shelf, every word devoured.”  Read more ….

—Jodie Cain Smith, The Military Spouse Book Review

Click here to read an article on Johnnie in Stars and Stripes.

“With the grace of a consummate storyteller, [Rodgers] saves the hardest truths for last…. [She] has made a place for Johnnie in the hearts of her readers.”  Read more ….

—Melissa Embry’s Blog

“Kathleen Rodgers had me from the moment I read the first sentence. Johnnie leaps off the page as a woman who is real, tangible, and someone women in all walks of life can certainly relate to. As each nuance of her character was revealed, I found myself cheering, crying, and, at times, laughing. Rodgers has written a book that will long stand for what it truly means to go after your dreams.”

—Melissa Seligman, author of The Day After He Left for Iraq and co-founder,

“The Kitchen family could be any wholesome All-American family, and like any family, they have secrets. In Johnnie Come Lately, Kathleen Rodgers brings to life an extended family that could be yours or mine. Their secrets will draw you into this book, and Rodgers’ characters—from Johnnie Kitchen to her lovable chocolate lab, Brother Dog—will jump off the page, grab your heart, and not let it go until the very end.”

—Terri Barnes, author of Spouse Calls: Messages From a Military Life and columnist for Stars and Stripes

“A beautifully crafted story about family secrets and second chances, Johnnie Come Lately is a guaranteed book club favorite. Former bulimic Johnnie Kitchen battles insecurity and doubt but never lets failure win. I loved her imperfections; I marveled at her strength. Reminding us of the true nature of courage, Johnnie is one of the best heroines I’ve met in years.”

—Barbara Claypole White, award-winning author of The Unfinished Garden and The In-Between Hour

Johnnie Come Lately is why humans have gathered for eons around the fires to listen to the Storyteller. Kathleen M. Rodgers masterfully unfolds the faded, damaged petals of her flawed characters to reveal their glorious essence in this gripping story about the soul’s risk and its inevitable redemption.”

—Parris Afton Bonds, New York Times bestselling author of Deep Purple and cofounder of Romance Writers of America and Southwest Writers Workshop

Johnnie Come Lately evokes the pathos of family life—secrets, betrayals, misunderstandings, heartbreak, and just enough love and forgiveness to make it all worth it. Kathleen M. Rodgers treats her haunted characters with keen insight and empathy, offering them the second, third, fourth chances that all of us flawed human beings need.”

—Siobhan Fallon, author of You Know When the Men Are Gone

“I understood Johnnie’s feelings, as a daughter, wife, and mother. In fact, the author relates to all women. That’s the beauty of the story. Johnnie is real.”  Read more….

—The One True Faith Blog

“If you enjoy mystery and strength, with a touch of empathy and humor you will find this a great read. Often life’s road is not what we expect , but it takes a great deal of energy and fortitude to move forward in some cases and Rodgers takes us there with this work.”  Read more….

—Tic Toc Book Reviews

“The remnants of Johnnie Kitchen’s childhood traumas threaten the life she needs and wants now—a deep and enduring love, children, and an orderly family life. Award-winning author Kathleen Rodgers has written a brave and uplifting novel that will move anyone who has faced a long, lonely road back from disaster and despair.”

—Joyce Faulkner, past president of Military Writers Society of America and award-winning author of Windshift and In the Shadow of Suribachi

Johnnie Come Lately is a thoroughly compelling story of a family in crisis. Rodgers has combined humor, tragedy, and ultimately love in an uplifting story of the human spirit. There were times that I laughed and cried and shouted for joy, and I am not ashamed to say it.”

—Dwight Jon Zimmerman, New York Times #1 bestselling and award-winning author, Lincoln’s Last Days, radio show host, producer, and president of the Military Writers Society of America

“Kathleen M. Rodgers captures several life-changing events in Johnnie Come Lately with empathy, seriousness, and humor. Her characters are well-defined; her plot is very credible and her use of schemes to further her story all combine to make this a completely entertaining read.” Read more ….

—Katherine Boyer, Katherine’s Bookshelf, Midwest Book Review

“With Johnnie Come Lately, Kathleen Rodgers has crafted a story that hits every emotion and is, in many ways, cathartic. This deeply felt family drama resonates on multiple levels, ultimately leaving you inspired.”

—Angela Ebron, former magazine editor and the author of Blessed Health: The African-American Woman’s Guide to Physical and Spiritual Health

“The story pulled me in and wouldn’t let me go till I finished it, and I didn’t want it to end.”  Read more….

—Simple Wyrdings

“This is a book that really pulls at your heartstrings. Johnnie is an adult that was raised by her grandparents. Her mom was in and out of her life as a small child. Once she married, her mom was gone for over 20 yrs…. I really felt bad for Johnnie. She has a lot of things to deal with from her past and they always work their way into your present and future if you don’t deal with them. I really enjoyed this book and can’t wait to read the next one in the series.”  Read more….

—Gina’s Library of Reviews

5 Stars: “In Johnnie Come Lately, author Kathleen M. Rodgers gives an intimate, no-holds-barred account of what it’s like to be inside the average woman’s head…. Needless to say, Johnnie’s mind is a crazy, hectic place. It’s a humming, buzzing cauldron of differing levels of anxiety, yet the book is written in such a way that the reader can feel all the conflicting emotions she’s going through at any given moment. And Johnnie’s not just pondering things that advance the plot, her state of consciousness goes much deeper than that, examining what really makes a woman in suburban America tick in the twenty-first century. How does she fulfill all of the roles that are assigned to her? Mother, wife, daughter, lover, friend, neighbor…even devoted dog owner.”  Read more….

—Tribute Books

“I enjoyed getting to know Johnnie, even in her darkest hours, and found her character very human…. Recommended read for Women’s Fiction fans.”  Read more….

—Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Would life have been different for Johnnie if she’d been named after a woman rather than her dead uncle? Or if her mama hadn’t been quite so beautiful or flighty? The grandparents who raised her were loving, but they didn’t understand the turmoil roiling within her. And they had so many, many secrets. Why did her mama leave? Would she ever return? How did her Uncle Johnny really die? Who was her father?

Now Johnnie Kitchen is a 43-year-old woman with three beautiful children, two of them grown. She has a handsome, hardworking husband who adores her, and they live in the historic North Texas town of Portion in a charming bungalow. But she never finished college and her only creative outlet is a journal of letters addressed to both the living and the dead. Although she has conquered the bulimia that almost killed her, Johnnie can never let down her guard, lest the old demons return. Or perhaps they never went away to begin with. For Johnnie has secrets of her own, and her worst fear is that the life she’s always wanted—the one where she gets to pursue her own dreams—will never begin.

Not until her ghosts reveal themselves.

Says the author, “I know so many women who reach a point in their lives when they realize they’ve been living for others and not themselves. They have unfulfilled dreams and unfinished business, and it will eat at their souls unless they do something about it. I hope readers will connect with Johnnie Kitchen, with all her flaws and passion for life. She is wounded, but she has never stopped fighting. By confronting her demons, she finds a way to really live for the first time.”

Kathleen M. Rodgers’ stories and essays have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. Johnnie Come Lately is her second novel. She lives in a suburb of North Texas with her husband, a retired fighter pilot/commercial airline pilot, and their dog, Denton. For more information, click here.

Keep Reading for an excerpt:

The Lincoln Continental with a buttercream paint job sailed up to the curb at promptly seven p.m. Granny Opal blasted her horn and Johnnie sprang down the front steps to greet her.

“You look a little thin,” Granny called out. She was wearing that loopy grin that seemed to grow more lopsided every year. She wore purple gauchos, a short denim jacket—to conceal her expanding waistline—and her trademark red cowboy boots. Big silver hoops looped through sagging earlobes dangled below her cropped hair.

Out of respect for her grandmother, Johnnie tried to appear cheerful, although a cloud of lead had fallen from the sky over 420 Merriweather. “Granny, I’ve been the same weight for years. Here, let me give you a hand with that.”

Granny Opal placed a three-layer coconut cake into Johnnie’s outstretched hands. “I may be retired from the business, but I can still bake a mean cake.”

Johnnie smiled, taking care not to drop it. “I’m sure it will be delicious.”

Early in her recovery, when she avoided sweets for fear they would trigger a binge, she refrained from saying anything derogatory every time her grandmother appeared armed with a dessert. Then one year, the year Johnnie was pregnant with Cade, she thought Granny Opal finally understood. After a meal of baked chicken and tossed salad, Johnnie’s grandmother sailed into the dining room with a large head of cabbage on a crystal cake pedestal. Planted in the middle of the cabbage was a fat pink dinner candle. After everyone stopped laughing long enough to sing “Happy Birthday,” Johnnie blew it out. When Johnnie quietly sighed with relief and started to open her presents, Granny Opal appeared in the doorway with a Texas sheet cake, much to the delight of a young D.J. and Dale.

Later that night, when they were getting ready for bed, Johnnie grumbled to Dale that Granny Opal was trying to sabotage her progress. Dale, to his credit, simply remarked, “Maybe she just likes baking cakes.”

Granny Opal linked one arm through Johnnie’s and together they mounted the steps onto the large porch. “Everything looks lovely,” her grandmother commented as they entered the house.

Cade and Callie Ann were out back, playing fetch with Brother Dog. As Johnnie went to place the cake on the long farmhouse table that served as a room divider between the kitchen and the family room, she saw Granny Opal poke her head out the back door.

“Cade, when’s your next baseball game? I’ll come if it’s not too hot.”

Johnnie looked up, wondering how Cade would respond, but her grandmother had already stepped outside onto the deck and shut the door. A few minutes later, while Johnnie set out dessert plates and forks, the back door opened, and Granny Opal filed in, followed by Brother Dog. He trotted straight to the laundry room, where Johnnie could hear him lapping from his water bowl.

Granny Opal went to the sink and helped herself to a glass of tap water. “Cade told me what happened.” She turned to look at Johnnie, who froze, afraid to look into her grandmother’s dancing eyes. How much had Cade told her? A knot in her stomach, Johnnie watched herself pull out a chair and sit down across from her grandmother. The heady scent of birthday cake and vanilla candles filled the room. She felt a headache coming on.

Granny Opal removed one of her earrings and rubbed her earlobe. “Kids are going to drink, my dear. It’s a fact of life. I told Cade I don’t want to hear about him drinkin’ and drivin’.” She took a sip of water and set her glass in the sink. With her back to Johnnie, she added, “I know about the six games. He’ll survive. In the meantime, I’ve got an acre of trees that need trimmin’ and he’s offered to do it. For free.”

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