by Billie Letts ‧ RELEASE DATE: June 1, 1998
A sunny look at the dark side, as a poster group--a Vietnam vet, an Asian immigrant, a Native American, and an African-American widow--serendipitously find happiness at an Oklahoma diner. Letts (Where the Heart Is, 1995, etc.), while a deft scene-setter, offers characters whose pain seems a plot accessory to be worn until something better comes along--and whose ultimate happiness feels as superficial as their previous misery. First, there's Vietnam vet Carney, who lost his legs in the war and now runs the cafÆ’. Helping him is widow Molly O, worried about her runaway teenage daughter Brenda, who wants to be a country music star. Also hanging out are locals like widower ""Life,"" who has his eye on Moll; notorious gossip Wanda Sue; and three old Cherokee friends and WWII vets, Hooks, Soldier, and Quentin. Carney, a former rodeo star, is so depressed that he never goes outside-until Native American Vena Take Horse arrives one evening with a wounded dog in her arms (and a lot of psychic baggage). Vena's past includes drug addiction, a bad marriage, and an abortion, and she's still grieving over favorite sister Helen's suicide. But she loves animals, knows old Indian remedies, and soon has the dog cured and Carney back on horseback--and in love with her. To add to the mix and help Carney sort out his feelings about 'Nam is the new cook, Vietnamese immigrant Bui, who's saving his wages to bring his wife over to the States. Bui angers Sam, a local bigot who dies whole trying to kill him, after which Bui wins the friendship of African-American Galilee when he rebuilds her church. Vena, now pregnant and still troubled by her past, runs away, but she finds herself again, and everyone--including newly arrived Bui's wife--gathers back at The Honk and Holler to celebrate. Happiness lite.
Pub Date: June 1, 1998
Page Count: 288
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1998
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