Anshaw, Carol. Lucky in the Corner. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2002
Reason read: April is National Dog Month.
In a word, Lucky in the Corner is about relationships. Okay, two words: complicated relationships. Nora and Fern have a strained mother-daughter relationship. Nora had Fern at a young age essentially defying her own deep rooted lesbian reality: she first kissed a girl at age twelve. Now, in a romantic relationship with sophisticated Jeanne, Nora is trying to find common ground with defiant Fern. Her daughter is the type of girl to get a tattoo just to piss off a parent.
Fern works as a psychic knowing full well this too is something her mother will never understand. To be fair, Fern has an uneasy relationship with her mother because she can never quite trust Nora will always be there for Fern. She has felt her mother could disappear at any second, exactly like a not-quite-there hologram. Call it her psychic abilities but Fern senses her mother’s betrayals before they happen. Beyond navigating a complicated relationship with her mother, Fern is also coping with a breakup, the changing relationship with her best friend (who is now a mother herself), and the peripheral relationships with her mother’s girlfriend, Jeanne and Fern’s cross dressing uncle, Harold. The only relationship not changing too much is the one Fern has with her dog, Lucky.
Quote to quote, “One of the most excellent things about him is that he is able to let observations roll to a comfortable spot on the side of the road” (p 203).
- Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,”
- “Turn the Ship Around” by David Marquet,
- Della Reese’s “Someday,”
- “Chain of Fools” by Aretha Franklin,
- “Different Drum” by the Stone Poneys,
- Lena Horne’s version of “Stormy Weather”
- “If It Makes You Happy” by Sheryl Crow,
- “Book of Love,”
- The Supremes’ “Stop in the Name of Love,
- “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” by Brenda Lee,
- “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter” by Teresa Brewer,
- Rage Against the Machine,
- Yo-Yo Ma,
- Judy Garland.
Author fact: Anshaw has written a bunch of other things. I am only reading Lucky in the Corner.
Book trivia: this should be a movie.
Nancy said: Pearl mentioned Lucky in the Corner as having a character who is either gay or lesbian.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Gay and Lesbian Fiction: Out of the Closet” (p 93). Lucky in the Corner is also mentioned in “Great Dogs in Fiction” (also from Book Lust p 104).
Evanovich, Janet. Four to Score. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998.
Reason read: to continue the series started in January in honor of Female Mystery Month.
Five months ago we last left Stephanie “in a clinch” on her couch with Joe Morelli. Now, five months have passed and Stephanie Plum is still trying to be a bail bondsman (or is it bondswoman?) for her cousin Vinnie. She doesn’t quite have her technique honed in, but she’s getting there. She’s the type of girl who can’t pass up a home-cooked meal or the chance to make promises while crossing her fingers behind her back. It should be said, Stephanie is a walking disaster. Dead bodies pile up in her wake. So much so she is starting to get a reputation. Her vehicles are continuously getting destroyed (at least one per book). this time it’s a Honda CRX. Luckily for her, her family’s baby blue boat of a Buick is always available.
This time Stephanie is on the hunt for Maxine Nowicki, wanted for theft and extortion. Only, Steph has unwanted company. Vinnie has hired nemesis Joyce Barnhardt, the woman who lured Stephanie’s husband to cheat. Stephanie and Joyce have known each other since high school. Maxine shouldn’t be hard to find. She has been leaving demented clues for her ex to follow like some kind of vicious scavenger hunt. At the same time, Stephanie is dealing with her own jealous girlfriend – someone insane enough to torch her Honda CRX and firebomb her apartment.
As an aside, in Three to Get Deadly I was very much aware of how many cousins Stephanie seems to have: everyone is a cousin. Eddie Gazarra married Stephanie’s cousin, Shirley. Cousin Maureen works at the button factory. Cousin Jeanine works at the post office. In Four to Score I learned Cousin Marion works at the bank. Let’s still not forget cousin Vinny!
Lines I liked, “This book is rated PG35 for licentious wit and libidinous cohabitation” and “I slunk back to my car and decided my deductive reasoning would be vastly improved if I ate a doughnut” (p 16). I think that way, too.
Playlist: Metallica, Savage Garden, Buddy Holly,
Author fact: some of Evanovich’s stories have ended up in Reader’s Digest.
Book trivia: One of my all time favorite Jersey hangouts is featuring in Four to Score. I absolutely adore Point Pleasant.
Nancy said: Pearl said you can’t label Evanovich’s books as mysteries but they are hilarious and you will laugh all the way through the series.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ms. Mystery” (p 169).
Puzo, Mario. The Godfather. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1969.
Reason read: March is usually when the Academy Awards are held. The Godfather was awarded nine out of twenty-eight awards. Another reason: The Godfather movie was released on March 15th, 1972. Also: I decided to read it for the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge in the category of PPL Book of the Week Pick.
Who does not know the name Don Vito Corleone? Who doesn’t know the infamous “horse head” scene? I haven’t seen the movie but even I have known about these details of The Godfather for decades. People just couldn’t stop talking about the son who was hung like a horse (speaking of horses).
The year is 1945 and World War II is over. Mr. Corleone can go back to his “olive oil” business, if that’s what you want to call it. In reality, this is the story of the Mafia society and all its inner workings. Vito Corleone rules his family from Long Island inside a well fortified compound. Outwardly, he is a quiet, friendly, benevolent, and fair man. He never forgets a debt. Underneath his reasonableness is a ruthless and vengeful gang leader who will stop at nothing to protect his empire of gambling, bookmaking, and controlling the unions. Other “families” are branching out; delving in drugs and prostitution. Don Corleone wants no part of that action but how long can he control business when these vices grow stronger? Even his own sons look like they might betray him. Who will take up the charge and protect the Corleone name?
As an aside, I found it really hard to picture the characters in The Godfather. All of my imagination was consumed by stereotypical Italian traits.
Quotes to quote, “If you had built up a wall of friendships you wouldn’t have to ask for help” (p 38). A true life lesson.
Author fact: Puzo has also written The Fortunate Pilgrim and Dark Arena. Has anyone heard of these books…especially when The Godfather overshadows them all?
Book trivia: The Godfather is part of a larger series.
Nancy said: Pearl compares The Godfather to the HBO show “The Sopranos.”
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Italian American Writers” (p 129).
Nwaubani, Adaobi Tricia. I Do Not Come to You By Chance. London: Hachette Digital, 2009.
Reason read: The four-day Argungu Fishing Festival is held in annually every March in Nigeria.
Augustina/Ozoemena’s mother died in childbirth, a sin in Nigeria. It is as if this terrible event had cast a long shadow on the family; one that would follow Augustina into adulthood. Her family of five is wallowing in debt, made worse when her husband falls ill and dies of a stroke. Her son, Kingsley Onyeaghalanwanneya Ibe, being the opara of the family, has been tasked with borrowing money from rich Uncle Boniface. Everyone knows him as Cash Daddy. It is an embarrassment for the family because Cash Daddy does not come by his wealth honestly. There is something dark and dangerous about his lifestyle. But Kingsley can’t come by work honestly; he can’t afford his girlfriend’s bride price; he can’t afford to be the man of the house without a job. What’s the saying? Desperate times call for desperate measures. Despite Kingsley’s reluctance to borrow from Cash Daddy he does so, again and again. This debt ensnares him in his uncle’s world of big corporate scams. Education may have its respectable place, but money moves the world and makes things happen.
Lines I liked, “My taste buds had been hearing the smell of my mother’s cooking and my stomach had started talking” (p 17). Sounds like something I would say. Another good line, “Uncle Boniface had exceeded the speed limit in his derogatory comments” (p 103).
Author fact: I Do Not Come to You By Chance is Nwaubani’s first book and it won the 2010 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize.
Book trivia: I Do Not Come to You by Chance was also awarded a Betty Trask First Book Award in 2009.
Nancy said: Pearl called I Do Not Come to You By Chance humorous yet thought provoking. It reminded me of the movie Dead Presidents. The criminals were forced into a life of crime because they couldn’t catch a break living honestly.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called simply “Nigeria” (p 156).
Richter, Conrad. The Awakening Land Trilogy: the Trees. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1991.
Reason read: Ohio became a state in the month of March. Additionally, The Trees was published on March 1, 1940. Finally, I needed a book for the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge in the category of a group working towards a common goal. This is a family working towards surviving and establishing a homestead in the wilds of Ohio.
The Luckett family: Father Worth, Mother Jary, and children Sayward, Genny, Achsa, Wyitt, Sulie, and hound Sarge, find their way to the deep woods of Ohio after being driven out of Pennsylvania by famine in 1795. Hoping for a new life, they discover they are in a foreign land of multiple misunderstandings. The family has trouble cultivating the soil so food is scarce. Hunting even the smallest of animals keeps them fed. Worth values this lifestyle and admires the “woodsy” people. Illness hovers over them constantly until finally mother Jary is taken by consumption. The Luckett family misunderstands the neighboring native tribes and as a result, distrust and fear them in equal measure. [As an aside, I had to admit it broke my heart when Wyitt spies on them violently skin a wolf alive for his pelt. When they let the poor creature flee into the woods it was difficult to read of such cruelty.] Other tragedies befall the family but somehow Sayward, the main character, shows true grit and that “woodsy” spirit her father so admired.
Author fact: in his forward Richter thanks “scores of helpful librarians” for helping him research his book. Yay for my profession!
Book trivia: The Trees is the first book in a trilogy called Awakening Land Trilogy.
Nancy said: Richter’s series needs to be read in order, starting with The Trees.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Big Ten Country: the Literary Midwest, Ohio” (p 25).
Evanovich, Janet. Three to Get Deadly. New York: Scribner, 1997.
Reason read: to continue the series started in January in honor of Mystery month.
When we meet up with Stephanie Plum in the third Evanovich mystery, she is still driving her powder blue behemoth of a Buick, she still wears Doc Martins, and of course she still works for her cousin Vinny as a bounty hunter. In fact, Three to Get Deadly takes place only five months after when Stephanie first became an apprehension agent in One for the Money. All of the usual characters are back: Rex the hamster, grandma, Joe Morelli, and Ranger (we have to have Ranger). Even the ex-prostitute-turned-file-clerk Lula is back. She sometimes steals the show. In Three to Get Deadly, Lula is more Stephanie’s seemingly-smarter-than-Stephanie sidekick, ready to kick some butt…or hoping she will anyway. Only this time Stephanie’s new case is beloved Trenton resident and sweet candy store owner, Mo Bedemier. Everyone wants to criticize Stephanie for harassing dear old Mo. No one will be kicking Mo’s butt anytime soon. According to the law, he was pulled over for speeding (harmless) and was found to be carrying a concealed weapon (not so harmless). Speeding and a concealed gun – a double no-no in the State of New Jersey. What makes this case even more controversial is that whenever Stephanie goes to apprehend Mo, she finds a dead body instead. The bodies pile up in alarming numbers.
As an aside, everyone is a cousin. Eddie Gazarra married Stephanie’s cousin Shirley. Cousin Maureen works at the button factory. Cousin Jeanine works at the post office. Let’s not forget cousin Vinny!
As another aside, I have a crush on the mysterious Ranger. He is funny and sassy and dark and, I assume, handsome. When Stephanie said he went home to eat tofu and tree bark I actually laughed out loud.
Lines I liked, “She could probably be a brain surgeon if she just had a decent haircut” (p 60), “If I allowed myself to consider what was being said about me at this very moment I’d probably fall over in a faint” (p 130), and “Failure makes me hungry” (p 134). It’s Stephanie’s love of food that endears me to her.
Author fact: Evanovich has a series called Stephanie Plum and Diesel.
Book trivia: Three to Get Deadly won a 1998 Dilys Award.
Nancy said: Pearl said “you can’t exactly label as mysteries the hilarious series by Janet Evanovich….they’re better described as irresistible romps through the world of lowlifes” (Book Lust p 171).
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ms. Mystery” (p 169).
Eisner, Will. Will Eisner’s New York: the Big City: Invisible People. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1992.
Reason read: to finish the series started in January.
The stories in Will Eisner’s New York: the Big City keep getting sadder and sadder. The subtle humor once found in earlier stories has slipped away in Invisible People. Take Pincus Pleatnik from the short story “Sanctum.” Someone at the newspaper has made a mistake and prematurely put his name in the obituary section. Because Pincus is an unmemorable (invisible) man no one believes him when he tries to prove his living-and-breathing existence. Then there is the librarian, a spinster in her 40s in “Mortal Combat.” She spent her entire life looking after her father. Despite the many sacrifices she has made over the years to care for her dad, once he passes she believes it is not too late to have a life of her own. She tries…except she choses a man exactly like herself, locked into a lifetime of caring for a parent.
As an aside, I was reminded of the lyrics from “Motherland”, a Natalie Merchant song: “Nameless, faceless, innocent, blameless, free. Now tell me what that’s like to be.” The people in Invisible People are indeed nameless and faceless.
Only quote I liked, “the pity of it is that deep-city dwellers carefully sidestep the human debris that they see in the doorways and crannies around them” (p 41).
Author fact: Eisner said he wrote Invisible People in anger. He read an article about a woman who was failed by the system. You can read more about it here.
Book trivia: Invisible People is the last set of stories in Will Eisner’s New York.
Nancy said: Pearl said Invisible People as one of the books about New York City she really liked.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “New York: a Taste of the Big Apple” (p 151).
Wilson, Barbara. Death of a Much-Travelled Woman. New York: Open Road, 1998
Reason read: to “finish” the series started in January.
Cassandra Reilly is back! She is still very much the translator, the “accidental, expatriate, dyke detective.” This time her adventures are contained in nine short stories from around the globe and there is a crime of some sort (mostly murders) in every one. Of interest, Wilson occasionally makes a serious commentary on the perceptions of what it means to be a feminist and the rights of lesbians as legally married couples.
- Death of a Much-Travelled Woman
- Murder at the International Feminist Book Fair
- Theft of the Poet
- An Expatriot Death
- Wie Bitte?
- The Last Laugh
- The Antivariaat Sophie
- Mi Novelista
Author fact: Barbara Wilson also writes under the alias Barbara Sjoholm.
Book trivia: This is the third Cassandra Reilly book in the series.
Nancy said: Pearl included Death of a Much-Travelled Woman in her list of contemporary series featuring female sleuths.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ms. Mystery” (p 169).
Dickens, Charles. David Copperfield. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1991.
Reason read: Dickens was born in the month of February. Read in his honor.
David Copperfield is a classic: character driven and autobiographical in nature. Dickens illustrates the varying sides of human nature; how we all have faults. His portrayal of young David as a naïve child is brilliant. I could picture the boy being unreasonably afraid of a large bird because he acted just as I had when confronted with a gigantic angry fowl; or when Copperfield was bored at church and nearly falling asleep, slipping off his pew; or when he didn’t realize the adults were openly discussing him. His innocence is at the heart of his personality. As David matures and enters adulthood he learns relationships often fail and the motive of some people are not always pure at heart. Malicious people are everywhere. In the end (and I do mean the very end) Copperfield finds true happiness.
As an aside, I heard that the audio book read by Richard Armitage is very good. I didn’t listen to it.
Author fact: I read somewhere that Dickens was born in Landport, Portsea, England. What the what? That sounds like a very interesting place.
Book trivia: David Copperfield is the eighth novel of Dickens and it is his favorite story. Maybe because it is a thinly veiled autobiography?
Nancy said: Pearl said the opening line of David Copperfield was a classic that had slipped her mind.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter “Lines that Linger, Sentences that Stick” (p 140).
Hoban, Russell. Riddley Walker. New York: Summit books, 1980.
Reason read: Hoban’s birth month is in February. Read in his honor.
I wanted to like Riddley Walker. I really, really did. The problem is that I am not a science fiction consumer by any means. This book will demand your entire attention and hijack your time, thanks to a language that at first blush just looks like horribly spelled English. It’s trickier than that and way more brilliant. I didn’t have the time or inclination to get into it beyond fifty pages. The story opens with Riddley becoming a man at twelve years old. In post-apocalyptical English Kent, civilization is starting over from tribal scratch. Men carry spears and need to relearn skills like rediscovering fire in order to survive. Once man’s best friend, dogs are now killing machines that roam the streets in packs. Riddley finds symbolism in everything.
As an aside, the salvaging of iron reminded me of the opening scene of the movie “The Full Monty.” Aha! A movie I have seen! 😉
Lines I managed to like, “I don’t think it makes no differents where you start the telling of a thing” (p 8). Too true.
Author fact: Hoban was inspired to write Riddley Walker after seeing medieval wall art in a cathedral.
Book trivia: Riddley Walker won a few sci-fi awards and was nominated for a Nebula in 1981. It was also the inspiration for many plays. The movie “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” used themes from Riddley Walker.
Nancy said: Pearl had a lot to say about Riddley Walker. She starts by calling it one of the best of the postapocalyptic genre of novels. She then goes on to say she “doesn’t know of another novel that could arguably be called science fiction which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award as well as the Nebula Award” (More Book Lust p 115). She finishes her praise by offering a suggestion for understanding the language: read it out loud, as her mother did.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter “Russell Hoban: Too Good To Miss” (p 114). This book finishes the chapter for me.
Eisner, Will. Will Eisner’s New York: Life in the Big City: City People Notebook. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1989.
Reason read: to continue the series started in January.
I am starting to notice a pattern with Eisner’s work: there is a level of subtle tragedy in every story in Will Eisner’s New York. One example – in City People Notebook the throngs of people moving down the bustling sidewalk do not give notice to the man in terrible distress, apparently having a heart attack until he lies prostrate on the sidewalk, dead. It’s a terrible image.
Despite the sadness there is some humor (Hotel LaSleaze where a man assumes he has anonymity and takes out an escort). I especially liked the smell shock. The city smells so bad you don’t recognize when it is on fire.
The same street has many different personalities: empty, angry, sad. Eisner studies the relationship between people and these streets. He calls it an “archaeological study of city people.” The lonely people, the suspicious people, the harried people. They all flow through the streets on their way somewhere. All the while they are unaware of the environmental factors of time, smell, rhythm and space. There is a certain cadence to the city – the element of speed through a maze; a certain cacophony of emissions.
Author fact: Eisner died in January 2005.
Book trivia: Eisner offers up a new introduction for City People Notebook in his compendium.
Nancy said: Pearl lists City People Notebook as one of the books about New York City she really liked.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “New York City: a Taste of the Big Apple” (p 151).
First, Alan. Spies of Warsaw. New York: Random House, 2008.
Reason read: Furst was born in February; read in his honor.
The year is 1937 and German-born engineer, Edvard Uhl, finds himself caught up in smuggling German industrial plans relating to armament and arms. Like joining a gang, Edvard is drawn deeper and deeper into the fold. The tightening entanglement causes Uhl to become more and more paranoid about being exposed. But how to get out? This is how The Spies of Warsaw begins but it is not about Edvard. He is just a pawn; one little cog in the world of espionage. The real protagonist is Colonel Jean-Francois Mercier, military attaché to the French Embassy. War is eminent and the stakes couldn’t be higher in the struggle for intel. Mercier, familiar with war as a decorated 1914 veteran, must make his moves carefully. One never knows who is counterintelligence and who is an ally. Who is a betrayer? In the midst of the political drama, Furst gives Mercier a love interest. Anna’s role is not to lighten the story but to add another layer of tension and mystery. While the book only covers seven months before World War II, the shadowy sense of place is heavy across Poland, Germany, and France.
As an aside, I particularly liked the train scenes: travelers waiting on the platform with the falling snow and paranoia circling in equal amounts.
Author fact: Furst has been compared to John le Carre.
Book trivia: Spies of Warsaw was made into a television drama for the BBC
Nancy said: Pearl said Furst’s novels are “great for their splendid sense of place – World War II Eastern Europe” (p 183).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Polish Up Your Polish” (p 181).
Lahiri, Jhumpa. The Namesake. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2003.
Reason read: Vasant Panchami is a holiday celebrated in India to mark the coming of spring. I also needed a book for the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge in the category of “a PPL Book of the Week pick.”
While this is the story of Gogol Ganguli, first we must start from the beginning. Perspective must be established. Before Gogol’s birth and as a Bengali Indian keeping with her culture, Ashima Ganguli comes to the United State to partake in an arranged marriage. By 1968, Ashima has only been in Cambridge, Massachusetts for eighteen months before becoming pregnant with her first child. This is where Lahiri first draws attention to the many differences between American and Indian practices and this is where Gogol’s life begins; in this state of conflicting cultures. But back to Ashima. The first evidence of cultural confusion: the fact women in Bengali do not give birth in a cold, sterile hospital. They birth in the warm and comforting home their parents. Gogol is out of place even before he has been born. Then a subtle example of cultural ignorance: once Ashima is in labor the nurse cannot figure out how to fold Ashima’s six yards of silk sari. Most importantly (and the crux of the story), Indian parents do not choose the name of their child on a whim. It is this last detail that sets the stage for Gogol’s life story: the importance of identity; the necessity of belonging; the eventual learning to compromise in order to belong in harmony. We follow Gogol through childhood into manhood as he navigates relationships with his family, love interests, and homeland.
As an aside, when Lahiri mentions the Boston Globe story about Andrew Wyeth and his Helga paintings it grounded me to time and place.
Lines I really liked, “American seconds tick on top of her pulse point” (p 4) and “If there is nothing decent on television she leafs through books she has taken out of out the library, books that occupy the space Ashoke normally does on the bed” (p 163). This last quote struck me because I do the same thing when my partner is away.
Author fact: Lahiri is American, but her parents are Indian immigrants from West Bengal.
Book trivia: The Namesake, New York Times bestseller, was made into a movie. Of course I have not seen it. Yet.
Nancy said: Pearl said The Namesake is slightly less depressing than Mukherjee’s Jasmine.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “The Immigrant Experience” (p 123).
Dickey, Eric Jerome. Liar’s Game. Rockland, MA: Wheel Publishing, Inc., 2000.
Reason read: Read in recognition of Black History month being in February. Also, I needed a book for the Portland Public Reading challenge for the category of a book written in multiple perspectives.
Vincent Calvary Browne, Jr. is a Negro Black Man trying to date after divorce. His ex-wife cheated. Adding insult to injury, she left him taking their three year old daughter out of the country. Baggage, baggage, baggage. Dana Ann Smith is a single woman trying to land on her feet in Los Angeles after leaving heavy debts and an even heavier romance in New York. Baggage, baggage, baggage. When Vince and Dana meet they are immediately attracted to one another. They seem like the perfect fit. However, in an effort to present their best selves to one another they hide their secrets under a pile of lies and more lies. Sooner or later, those lies start to reveal themselves as the couple gets more and more involved and Dana’s ex arrives from New York. Can Dana see beyond Vince’s lie about never being married or having children? Can she respect him as a father with an ex-wife? Can Vince hear Dana over the warning bells about her debt? Can he trust she is truly over her rich and hunky ex? What makes Liar’s Game so much fun is the varying perspectives of the same story. As the saying goes, there are are always three sides to every story: his side, her side, and the truth. Dickey gives us all three.
A word of warning – the writing is a little dated. In today’s society, I don’t think many people would consider a cell phone a piece of technology for players.
I have to admit even though the sex scenes were a bit cliché it was refreshing to see a condom play a major role in the hot and heavy relationships. There is even a scene when the condom gets “lost.”
Simple but great lines to quote, “Hard living and bad loving ages a man” (p 2), “A smile is the shortest distance between two people” (p 6).
Author fact: Dickey died of cancer in January of this year. Sad.
Book trivia: I could see this as a movie or a daytime soap opera.
Nancy said: Pearl mentions Liar’s Game as another good example of fiction written by an African American male.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter “African American Fiction: He Say” (p 13).
Neely, Barbara. Blanche on the Lam. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992.
Reason read: January is Mystery month. Reading Blanche on the Lam in honor of the month. Additionally, for the Portland Public Library 2021 Reading Challenge, I needed a book for category of Agatha Award winner.
Blanche White is a special kind of sassy woman; not your average maid. When we first meet her in Farleigh, North Carolina, she is waiting to go to jail; convicted of writing bad checks. This is her second offense so she knows the judge is going to throw the book at her: thirty days in jail if only to set an example. When she unexpectedly finds an opportunity to slip away from the bailiff, she takes it quiet as you please. Just slips out the back door of the courthouse.
Through a series of misunderstandings Blanche ends up working as “the help” for an upper class white family: Everette, Grace, Mumsfield, and Aunt Emmeline. Luckily, Blanche has her wicked humor and uncanny intuition because from the moment she starts working for the family, she can tell something is wrong with all of them except mentally challenged Mumsfield. It wasn’t just from eavesdropping on Everett’s conversation with the sheriff, despite the sheriff’s death the very next day. It wasn’t from observing the odd behavior of alcoholic and seemingly senile Aunt Emmeline, who never leaves her room. It wasn’t from the gardener who perishes in an “accidental” house fire. It was from watching and talking with Mumsfield. From the moment they met Blanche had a special connection to the boy; he was always on her radar whether she liked it or not.
Blanche on the Lam, while humorous also carries the stark reality of sexism, racism and prejudice. Neely deftly weaves these sobering themes through an otherwise funny plot.
As an aside, I listened to an audio recording of Blanche on the Lam read by Lisa Renee Pitts. Her performance was brilliant.
Author fact: Blanche on the Lam is Barbara Neely’s first novel.
Book trivia: Blanche on the Lam won the Agatha Award in 1992.
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Blanche on the Lam.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p 119).