Tag Archives: beach-read

#49: Queen Bee of Mimosa Branch by Haywood Smith

Queen BeeI am not the target audience for this book, but I still liked it.

Main character:

Linwood Breedlove Scott.  Lin.  Lin Breedlove.  No longer Lin Scott.

Fifty-something years old.

Southern.  So very Southern.  Get your hair and lipstick straight because someone might see you at any moment.  Don’t you dare go out on the porch at night without checking your face in the mirror.

Divorced.  Badly divorced.  No-good husband got himself engaged to a stripper.  Thirty years of marriage and she finds out he’s spent every single penny on this girl, running Lin deep into debt.  When she tries to explain that he can’t be married to her while engaged to a stripper, she finally realizes the marriage is over.

Hot flashes.

Plot:

Heading back to Georgia.

Her family is fucking crazy.  Southern crazy, which might be the best kind of crazy because you have to be proper even if your uncle is running around the front yard mostly naked because someone is trying to steal his shoes.  That someone is his wife, but he doesn’t recognize her all the time.  Still, this is not the time to forget your manners.  You better be polite when hauling his elderly body back up the front steps and into the house.

Penniless and with almost no work history, she’s forced to move back home with her controlling eighty-something year old mother, her sometimes lucid but always angry father, and the aforementioned aunt and uncle.  She’s also got a brother, but things fell apart between the two of them years ago and it seems like they can’t breathe the same air without getting into a fight.

So here she is, back home, feeling helpless and hopeless.  Pissed off at the world.  Stuck in a room under her parents’ roof, seething and miserable.

My reactions:

There was a lot about this book that I liked.  The friendships between Lin and her friends are wonderful to see.  They are also very Southern.  If they don’t like someone, they are beautifully polite as they imply that perhaps this lady should go fuck herself.  But of course none of them even know the phrase “go fuck herself” so it comes out as poetry and sweetness.  I learned that you can get a Ph.D. in Southern Bitch.  My Yankee self approves of this and while they might see me as coarse and rude, I am in awe of how prettily they can slit a girl’s throat.

The story is Lin coming to terms with who she is now that she’s fifty-something, divorced and living at home.  She needs to redefine herself in a town where everyone already knows where she is.

There’s a nice story line about dirty politics and how the world works when good people want change to happen in a town where people are terrified to ask even the simplest of questions.

And then there are the men in Lin’s world and Smith’s writing.

Wow.

These guys suck.

I don’t know if Smith has an axe to grind or if it’s simply Lin, but the men in her world are terrible and I felt bad for how they were represented.  All of them are terrible and only after one thing, although it might not even be THAT one thing.  Lin is able to see her father and uncle in a different light through her mother and uncle, but even those moments are hazed over by how much she hates men.  Maybe not hates, but she definitely sees them all as pigs and dogs.

She has an interesting relationship with the guy next door.  She can’t decide if she hates him or loves him, but in either case, she wants to do him.  Hard.  Lots of doin’ it.

I could not figure out his character at all.  There are moments where Lin completely loses her shit on him and I couldn’t find what he had done to make her respond this way.  There is one giant scene where I was on Lin’s side, but then she went into this tirade and I was all “WTF is happening here?”  It defined the relationship from that point forward and I had no clue what happened.  It was obviously important because her girlfriends supported her and backed her up, but I do not know what happened.  Maybe I wasn’t paying attention when I was reading it, or maybe it was too Southern subtle for a damn Yankee to understand.

Still, even though this is a world I do not live in, it did make for an interesting visit.  Things ended nicely, the way you expect a Southern party to end.

#40: Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

How did this turn into this?

Because Hollywood!

I haven’t seen the movie Practical Magic in years, but it’s one of those movies that makes me stop and watch if I’m ever flipping channels and it’s on.  I’m not actually sure if I’ve seen the entire thing.  I like it a lot though and picked up this book on a whim after reading some heavy non-fiction.  I thought it would be nice to relax with a good couch read.

As I read I kept wondering if this was the book the movie was based on or if there is another book called Practical Magic that was used.  I even went to  IMDb to check because, seriously… how?  My friend Jenn figures that  the script for that movie was waved NEAR a copy of the book once.  A few things stuck, but then they just did whatever was going to test well.

Happily, I liked both the book and the movie, but I really wish when Hollywood gets  a book and changes it, they should rename the movie and add Inspired By The Book “Blah Blah Blah”.  You’re just confusing people and making die-hard book snobs snobbier.

Here come spoilers, but you probably already know the plot, right?  And if you read it, you still won’t know all the hows and whys.

Gillian and Sally Owens have lived with the aunts ever since their parents died during a second honeymoon love fest.  There were never any rules and the girls did whatever they wanted to.  Sally is the oldest and decides it’s up to her to create and enforce rules for her sister and to try and bring some sense of normality to the house.

The problem is the aunts are witches and everyone knows it.  Although people go out of their way in order to avoid the house during the day, lovesick women will creep to the backdoor under the cover of darkness to beg for spells to grant their hearts’ desires.  Sally and Gillian peek into the kitchen to watch these women kill doves if it means the man they want will follow them no matter where they go.

Disgusted, the two sisters vow to never let a man ruin them this way.

Now older, Gillian fulfills this promise by sleeping with any man she fancies and getting married over and over.  You can’t get ruined if you’re the one in charge.

Sally, on the other hand, resigns herself to a solitary life until she crashes into a man and falls sick in love.  Luckily he’s felt the same way about her for years.  They get married, have two daughters, and then he dies.

Gillian is long gone at this point.  Random postcards show up and Sally never knows where she is, but she calls every single week, urging Sally to get out of bed and live.

Sally, finally broken by her outsider life, grabs her girls and runs.  She doesn’t want them to have the ostracized life she had.  She never had friends, she was constantly teased and she always longed for something normal.

Years pass and Sally lives her normal life in her normal house with her normal teenage daughters (whatever normal is for a teenage girl) and everything is the same and she is happy.  Or at least content.

And then Gillian shows up with a dead body in the car.

So that sucks.

Turns out Gillian finally fell in love with the worst guy possible.  He was violent when he was alive and he’s still fucking things up now that he’s dead.  Remembering lessons from the aunts, they bury him under the lilacs in the backyard and Gillian decides to crash with Sally for a little while.

When Gillian appears though, everything changes.  Sally’s youngest daughter falls madly in love with her cool aunt, much to the terror of Sally.  Sally knows that if Gillian is given an afternoon, she will undo thirteen years of mothering.  The two sisters pick up arguments they’ve been having since they were girls and it’s hard not to be on Sally’s side.  Gillian is a mess.

And then the dead guy in the backyard starts haunting them and un-burying parts of himself.  And then Gillian falls in love, which is impossible since she’s Gillian.  And then a cop shows up to find out where the boyfriend went.  And then Sally falls in love with the cop.  And then things get even crazier and it’s time to call the aunts.  So they show up and do witchy things and everyone lives happily ever after.

I really did like this book although I liked the movie better.  Keeping Sally in the aunts’ house instead of having her run off was a nice touch.  I liked that her girls became teenagers in the book, but I also liked them being kids in the movie to echo Sally and Gillian.  Nicole Kidman and her super short skirts were perfect for Gillian and Sandra Bullock’s crazy beautiful hair was made for Sally.  I liked having them in mind while reading.

If you’re looking for a relaxed beach read, snag this from the library.  Or if you just want to sink into the couch and not turn pages, find the movie.  It’s a nice rainy day activity.