PRETTY IS AS PRETTY DOES by Alison Clement

PRETTY IS AS PRETTY DOES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

All hell breaks loose when a silly young woman falls for a stranger passing through her claustrophobically small Illinois town.

Lucy Fooshee, Palmyra’s beauty queen, has married Bob Bybee, son of Palmyra’s second-richest farmer. Two weeks after the wedding, she enters Aunt Babe’s Café for lunch, and finds Babe’s nephew Billy working the counter while he visits the town. Their case of lust at first sight is not calmed by the fact that Billy also works as a handyman at Lucy’s mother’s house, where Lucy and Bob have dinner nightly, or the fact that Bob and his family are despicable. First-time novelist Clement, a Colorado-based elementary school librarian, clearly wants us to see Lucy as immature yet endearing, but her Lucy is spoiled and bratty. As she chases after Billy, readers are likely to find their sympathies sliding unexpectedly toward the boorish but besotted Bob. Lucy and Billy end up at the Holiday Inn in Springfield, then begin meeting regularly behind the cemetery. Everyone except Bob knows about the affair, the scandal heightened by the news that Billy is one quarter “Injun.” After Billy is run out of town (shades of watered-down Tennessee Williams), Lucy discovers she's pregnant, the locals burn crosses on her lawn, and Bob’s family rejects her. Lucy and her new baby head off in her divorce-settlement Cadillac, supposedly toward a new life of possibilities. Clement’s sense of time and place are wobbly; she never clarifies when the story takes place. Certain references, like a comparison of Lucy to Elizabeth Taylor, along with the backwardness and isolation of Palmyra’s citizens (despite living within easy driving distance of the relatively sophisticated state capital, Springfield) imply the ’50s but other touches, such as a Mexican restaurant that serves authentic chicken tacos, implies the present. And although the story's set is Illinois, Lucy narrates with a decidedly southern accent (and with grammar so bad it sounds forced).

As self-righteous and narrow-minded as the small-town characters it vilifies.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 1-9673701-9-1
Page count: 300pp
Publisher: MacAdam/Cage
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2001