Tag Archives: Southern

If You Ask Me by Libby Hubscher

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If You Ask Me by Libby Hubscher

Hubscher, Libby. If You Ask Me. Berkeley, 2022. ISBN 9780593199442. 368 pp. $16.00

****

In an effort to purge the cheater from her life, she gathers his most treasured belongings and sets them on fire. A hottie firefighter who happens to live two streets over arrives on the scene and then Dez keeps turning up as she gets into various scrapes. As she works through her rage, grief, revenge, and acceptance, the genteel tone of her columns change, she starts to tell it like it is, and her blistering responses go viral.

Violet has a kind of picture perfect life: engaged to a looks-good-on-paper guy, living in a nice house, and on the cusp of having her advice column Dear Sweetie syndicated‚Ķ when she walks in on her fiance having sex (in their bed!) with the cute tight-bodied neighbor that is Violet’s inspiration for dragging her own butt to the gym. She throws him out (yay, Violet!), recognizes they’ve been going through the motions for some time‚Ķ and her fiance really isn’t that kind, but is a a little selfish and controlling (on top of the screwing around).

There is a lot to love about this book, starting with it’s not a traditional rom-com, because it brings in issues of infidelity, infertility and bullying with compassion and honesty. The American South adds a layer on to Violet’s personality, the setting, and the plot. The situations are real, and by turns funny and gut-wrenching. I was cheering for her through the whole book, and not just for the potential relationship with Dez, but for herself, her career, her family and her healing. I love novels that incorporate other elements into the narrative, and Sweetie’s advice columns and texts with Dez help flesh out the story.

I received an advance reader’s review copy of #IfYouAskMe from #NetGalley

Small Town Odds by Jason Headley

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Small Town Odds by Jason Headley

Headley, Jason. Small Town Odds. Chronicle, 2006. ISBN 978-0811853668 344 pp. $

****

April, cool about Kelly DiPucchio!

I too have had an author communication recently, from someone who read a review I posted here in which I mentioned that I love Richard Russo’s work. The someone, a first-time author named Jason Headley, told me that his novel Small Town Odds had been compared to Russo’s novels and invited me to take a look.

I was engrossed in this book from the first chapter, all over it “like white on rice,” to borrow a well-loved Southern phrase. The main character, Eric Mercer, is a 24-year-old West Virginian with a penchant for finding all the trouble that his small town has to offer, and making his own when supply lags demand. Fate (or rather, a drunken liaison with an “older” woman he had secretly admired since he was a boy) has left him playing a permanent gig in his hometown of Pinely with adorable five-year-old daughter Tess. Eric’s plans with Jill Dupree, his high-school love, were eradicated, as was his ticket to Providence (both to attend Brown University and to take advantage of the divine intervention that would have allowed him to escape Pinely), and he can neither forget it nor escape it, though he tries mightily to do both. When Jill’s father dies, she returns to Pinely for the funeral (at which, in his capacity as the town undertaker’s assistant, he assists), and Eric has to face his demons.

I like this book because it has that certain je ne sais quoi that exists when the author completely knows his/her characters’ hearts and minds. I don’t mean the omniscient point of view; I mean when you could make up the craziest scenario imaginable, or even the most nondescript one, and the author’s description has you nodding in total agreement. Like when Eric’s daughter pitches a fit after George Dupree’s funeral, wanting to ride “in the big car with George Dupree”; as Eric tries to calm her, Jill tells him that “I wouldn’t mind riding with you and George Dupree, myself.” I laughed and said to myself, “Of course you would say that, Jill!” Or the wry sardonicism Eric displays when his dad tells him that the star that he has wished on all of his life is actually the planet Mars; Eric “shook his head in disbelief that his carefully planned, intricate network of dreams had been, in all likelihood, negated on an astral technicality.” Or the author’s recounting of Eric and Jill’s first sexual experience together; it’s the best account of adolescent sex I’ve read in a long time, awkward and funny and honest. But I don’t want to spoil the book by recounting too much more of it; unlike the trailer for a bad movie, there are many more funny and interesting parts in the book than are shown up front. Read it and you’ll see what I mean.

~posted by Macee

Gap Creek: The Story of a Marriage by Robert Morgan

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Gap Creek: The Story of a Marriage by Robert Morgan

Morgan, Robert. Gap Creek: The Story of a Marriage. Highbridge Audio, 2021 (reissue). ISBN 979-8200922529 11 hours, 3 minutes. $41.99

*****

Books on CD: I’ve recently gotten the bug. Robert Morgan’s Gap Creek (read by Kate Forbes) was amazing. Southern fiction has always been one of my favorite genres and this one is at the top of my list. Julie’s only seventeen when she and Hank get married, but in life experience, she’s much older. She’s already witnessed her younger brother and father’s deaths. She’s worked the fields like a man, chopping wood, slaughtering animals and plowing and planting fields. Julie Harmon works like no person you have ever known. After her marriage to Hank, they move from their mountain home to Gap Creek to live with old Mr. Pendergast. He gives them a place to live in return for Julie doing the chores and cooking around the house.

Despite their free place to live, Julie and Hank face a year of terrible tragedy: fire, flood, hunger, being tricked and robbed, death, in-law troubles, unemployment, and finding the rhythm of this new relationship. Julie faces every trial with courage and honesty and gets through things by diving into her work. Finding chestnuts, laundry, canning, keeping a garden, cleaning the house, sewing, and slaughtering animals. It doesn’t matter the work, Julie puts herself into it completely and lets the work soothe her fears, sadness, anger, and loneliness. This is a beautiful work of fiction based loosely on the author’s great grandparents who came from the Appalachian Mountains.

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

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Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

Frazier, Charles. Cold Mountain. Grove Press, 2006. ISBN 978-0802142849 449 pp. $16

**

I waited weeks, months, years, to get my hands on a copy of Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier. I savoured every word, every phrase, every sentence. I relished each simile and metaphor–they were as southern as biscuits and gravy. I fell in love with Inman and admired Ada and Ruby. I counted the seconds until I would be home each evening so I could bury my nose in this tale. I dreamt of Inman’s journey and Ada and Ruby’s struggles on the farm.

Then I got to the end. And I felt confused. And disappointed.

Spitting Image by Shutta Crum

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Spitting Image by Shutta Crum

Crum, Shutta. Spitting Image. Clarion, 2003. ISBN 978-0618234776 218 pp. $

*****

Spitting Image by Shutta Crum is my most recent read. I loved it and this is why:

a. Great main character, Jessica “Jessie” Kay Bovey, a tomboy with a sense of justice who has no qualms about bearing her fists to defend her best friend Robert Ketchum. They don’t make’em more loyal and honest than Jessie.

b. It’s southern fiction. Love the locale, the language and the locals.

c. Bad guys who drink and smoke and wave their guns around

d. Ol’ One Eye, the evil rattlesnake

e. Quiet kind old Lester

f. Jessie’s Mom calls Jessie “the light of her life.” What a beautiful thing for a mom to call her daughter.

g. The grandmother who drives a white Thunderbird and changes her hair color as often as she changes husbands.

h. The jacket is awesome!

Read it and you’ll love it!