“There’s no upside to the downside.”


Once a Homecoming Queen 

Joan Moran  

Touchpoint Press 

February 5, 2024 

ISBN 979-1956851663; 269 pages 


Our journey through life is personal and can sometimes be painful and slipshod. The choices we make and the people we let in will always impact our mind, body, and final moments. 


Francine Fisher-Reynolds-Richelli-Freeman’s life has been fraught with unsupportive parents, rebellion, dark wit, and far too much alcohol, specifically bourbon and Seven. What sets Francine apart on her chaotic life-and-death adventure is her intellect, rock-solid memory, self-deprecating humor, and a battered and quite beautiful heart in a failing seventy-five-year-old body. 


This story can be difficult to process, especially if readers can relate to the desperate need to remain independent and in control while facing the consequences of self-destructive behavior. Relatable or not, this tale of redemption will tug at the heart and have readers cheering for Francine because of her spunk, brutal honesty, and determination to restructure her broken, bourbon-soaked life. Francine’s body may be at death’s door, but her mind is a sharpened machete. 


Joan Moran presents this novel about addiction with grace and dignity but with a twist: plenty of humor. While there is nothing funny about alcoholism or any form of addiction, humor can be both an elixir and a poison to the tortured soul. Francine’s special wit is both authentic and an evasion, and Moran shows each side of this stinging sword through all of Francine’s past and present relationships, including those with her daughter, Rachel, and her enabler best friend, Ida. 


The pacing of Once a Homecoming Queen is as quick as life: over in a blink and full of lessons, tears, laughter, and constant change with each passing chapter. This literary narrative is certainly character-driven, but the overall plot stands out as well. Life and death are inseparable lovers that start their sensual dance at the first breath. This engaging fiction captures the essence of this ultimate bond within us as we navigate the pitfalls of life and stare intently at death with trepidation or longing, or perhaps both. Francine is absolutely a flawed protagonist, but her struggle is real, and her wish to live her last days on her own terms is simultaneously encouraging and heartbreaking.  


Emotions will run deep throughout this story; however, hope and humor should reign supreme. Once a Homecoming Queen can be considered a cautionary tale and a reminder that friends and family are important, and that your attitude can either break you or illuminate both your path and the people orbiting you along the way.  


“You are the most important person in your life.” 


Whether you are facing a battle similar to Francine’s or simply enjoy reading stories that elicit strong empathy, Once a Homecoming Queen by Joan Moran will fill your senses. And maybe it will prompt you to examine your own journey and the people in your sphere, both those who drift in and out and those who remain by your side until your final rodeo. 

Joan Moran:  After a  full career in theater, Joan decided to  attend The American Film Institute in Los Angeles as a producing fellow. She worked in Hollywood for  fifteen years  as a screenwriter and producer, and eventually wrote  her memoir,  60, Sex & Tango: Confessions of a Beatnik  Boomer and  Women Obsessed,  as well as the novel,  I'm the Boss of Me:  Stay Sexy, Smart & Strong At Any Age.  

Since moving to Austin, Joan has written a thriller,  An Accidental Cuban, optioned for a streaming series, and  Once a Homecoming Queen. Recently, Joan adapted  Once A Homecoming Queen  into a screenplay, which has won eighteen awards and recognitions. She has recently finished a historical memoir of her mother,  Suddenly, I Was Jewish: The Life and Times of My Jewish Mother.