McCorkle's fifth novel (and sixth book, including a fine collection, Crash Diet, 1992) is a narrative gem that emanates...



McCorkle's fifth novel (and sixth book, including a fine collection, Crash Diet, 1992) is a narrative gem that emanates dramatic heat, southern-gothic light, and an uncanny emotional wisdom. The sixtysomething heroine, Queen Mary Stutts Purdy, called Quee, has just opened a smoking rehab in her house in Fulton, North Carolina, a little town ""halfway between the river and the ocean."" This is the latest of Quee's many businesses, and she's assembled the usual motley assortment of helpers: Alicia Jameson, long-suffering wife of the town's loudmouthed, fast-living radio deejay, Jones Jameson, who has disappeared; Tom Lowe, a handsome, kindhearted ne'er-do-well carpenter whose father committed suicide when Tom was ten; and Denny, Quee's 30-something goddaughter, who has fled her elderly, pedantic husband in Virginia and is acting as the rehab therapist. Quee and the gang are developing an enviable record for curing smokers when Alicia's husband's decaying body suddenly washes up from the river and is mysteriously delivered in a load of gardening topsoil to the town's rich, friendless widow, Myra Carter, who is bitter because she suspects that Quee and her deceased husband, Howard, a physician, had an affair. (In fact, together, Quee and Howard were performing abortions for the town's poor girls; Quee was actually having an affair with Tom Lowe's father, and she has been searching for the missing scraps of his suicide note since his death 25 years ago.) As the surprising details of Jones Jameson's murder begin to emerge, the novel's romantic focus shifts to the present: Tom falls in love with Denny; Rob, the sweet but shambling town policeman, begins to court Alicia; Myra falls in love anew with the memory of her husband; and Quee, the benevolent puppeteer and magician in the town's affairs, finally finds Tom's father's suicide note (in Tom's wallet) and revolutionizes her view of her own profoundly engaged life. And everyone who wants to quits smoking. A truly delightful read.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996


Page Count: 272

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996