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Beginning with Cannonballs

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  36 ratings  ·  9 reviews
In the 1940s, in segregated Knoxville, Tennessee, Gail (white) and Hanna (black) shared a crib in Gail’s parents’ house, where Hanna’s mother, Sophie, was the live-in maid. When the girls were four, Sophie taught them to swim, and soon they were gleefully doing cannonballs off the diving board, playing a game they'd invented based on their favorite Billie Holiday song.

Paperback, 256 pages
Published May 26th 2020 by She Writes Press
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Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
May 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Gail and Hanna share a crib growing up. It’s the 1940s and 50s in Knoxville, and the girls are born into a segregated world. Sophie is Hanna’s mother, and she lives in Gail’s parents’ house as their housekeeper.

Sophie taught the girls to swim, and oh how they loved to cannonball. (My brother was a big cannon baller, by the way. Me? Not so much! 😂) Gail and Hanna shared a treasured bond, growing up together.

When they go to college, they are apart and out of touch. Life and tragedies happen, and t
Kate Farrell
Aug 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Jill Coupe has captured the high wire tension of interracial friendships during the years of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s, in her tightly written novel, BEGINNING WITH CANNONBALLS. The multi-faceted plot revolves around characters who attempt to reach out to one another within and across racial barriers, sometimes failing and often fearful. The stunning image in the title, the cannonball splash off the diving board, skillfully reflects the implicit wish to break through all th ...more
Story Circle Book Reviews
Jul 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What is the value of friendship? It means everything to Gail and Hanna until they grow up and life separates them.

And what do their racial differences mean? Nothing, until Southern expectations in the 1950s tell the girls something different. In Beginning with Cannonballs, debut novelist Jill McCroskey Coupe explores the way the friendship blossoms until Gail and Hanna go their separate ways.

Even before they do cannonballs in Gail’s parents’ pool at age four, Gail and Hanna have become best frie
The year is 1951 and the place is Knoxville, Tennessee. Gail and Hanna are best friends, eight years old and raised like sisters and even sharing a crib for months. But will that friendship last? Sophie, Hannah's mother, doubts it for a very good reason. Gail is the daughter of her white employers, the Madisons Hanna is her daughter and an African American. Although Sophie and Hanna live with the Madisons all week, there is a definite line drawn. They live in the basement and it's clear who is i ...more
Teddy Jones
Jun 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Beginning With Cannonballs: A Novel weaves the lives of two women and the friendship their friendship that persists for more than fifty years despite racial prejudices, family pressures, and all the other things that would have easily made forgetting one another the simplest course. This is a touching, hopeful story that comes at the right time.
Judith Haines-Carter
Jun 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A book about friendship that is very timely for todays world. Each of the main characters touch you in a unique way and give you pieces of themselves that are easy to relate to.
Brad Houston
Jun 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Beginning with Cannonballs is a story about the life-long friendship of two women, one African American (Hanna) and one white (Gail), so race is an important undercurrent in this novel, but it isn’t only a story about race. It is really a story about people, the complexities of their relationships, and how they are shaped by external forces. Hanna and Gail are the foci, but also important are the relationships they have with their husbands, and parents, and kids. It is a book about how one perso ...more
Lorraine Wilke
Jan 24, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Author Jill McCroskey Coupe brings a poetic touch to her moving story of two women born in a time of segregation and cultural upheaval, parented by complex mothers, struggling to maintain their friendship over distance and decades. Weaving the events of the time—some minute and personal, others historically potent—into the sweet but complicated friendship of Hanna and Gail, we see the juxtaposition of life’s realities against their desire to simply BE and traverse what life has to offer them.

Eileen Sanchez
Apr 21, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beginning with Cannonballs by Jill Coupe
The literary device of repetition and bookending the symbolic significance of Cannonballs won’t be realized until the reader finishes the story of a friendship between two girls raised for the first years of their lives essentially as sisters. The twist is that one is White and one is Black. Their mothers aren’t friends, in fact, one works for the other as a live-in nursemaid. It is a message for our time. It’s a story of the kind of friendship that many w
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Gold-medal-winning author Jill McCroskey Coupe’s novels, Beginning with Cannonballs (2020) and True Stories at the Smoky View (2016), depict unlikely friendships and have been reviewed in such disparate sources as Library Journal, Booklist, Necessary Fiction, and Smoky Mountain Living. Jill’s master's degrees (an MFA in Fiction and an MLS in library science) are a dead giveaway: she has always lov ...more

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