An earnest debut about an unhappy preacher’s wife.
Dean Lynch has been married to Ben, a Methodist minister, for what seems like forever. After all these years, she’s still grateful that he married her, because he is the epitome of respectability whereas Dean’s the offspring of hillbilly musicians who drank themselves into an early grave and whose only legacy to her was a dulcimer. Her church chipped in to send the orphaned girl to college, where she did well, though she remained an outsider for the most part. But once the Lynches are transferred to a bigger parish in north Florida, Dean is befriended by the glamorous, devil-may-care Augusta Holderfield, the disgruntled wife of Maddox Holderfield. Maddox is a scion of the distinguished Holderfield family, and heir to a gracious antebellum plantation house plus all the stuffy pretensions that go with it. But Augusta likes to speak her mind and scandalize the ladies of the church auxiliaries, much to Dean’s secret amusement; and she’s brave enough to visit Celeste, a fortuneteller, owner of a New Age shop. This raven-haired temptress is soon caught (minus most of her gypsy garb) in the arms of a local worthy, and attacked by his bitchy wife in a howling fit of jealousy. There are other teapot-sized tempests, and the hypocrisy and narrow-mindedness of the congregation is pointed out again and again. Dean, meanwhile, is the soul of forbearance and friendly piety, playing her dulcimer, tutoring the children of migrant workers, and befriending a pair of gay men who want to be married in the church. Egged on by Augusta, she even experiences the first stirrings of a nascent independence and tells Ben that he loves his congregation more than he loves her. Then tragedy strikes: Augusta impulsively runs away to pursue her first love and dies in a car crash. Will Dean find the courage to leave Ben? Will Maddox snap out of mourning in time to drink champagne with her on the beach at sunrise?
Carefully crafted but predictable. No surprises here.