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ONE SWEET QUARREL by Deirdre McNamer


by Deirdre McNamer

Pub Date: March 16th, 1994
ISBN: 0-06-016868-4
Publisher: HarperCollins

A woman and her two brothers come of age in early 20th-century America in this warm, perceptive second novel from the author of Rima in the Weeds (1990). In 1973, the oldest residents of Shelby, Mont., have gathered in the local grade school's multipurpose room to receive a ``tribute'' from an unctuous former citizen, television actor Michael Cage. Cage wants to write a screenplay about the world heavyweight boxing championship held between Jack Dempsey and Tommy Gibbons in Shelby back in 1923, but he'll need the oldsters' help if he's to do a creditable job; hence the tribute, though the senior citizens themselves have other plans for this event. Daisy Lou Malone takes advantage of the speechifying to recall her youth in turn-of-the-century Minnesota, when she dreamed of being a singer but first had to care for her ailing mother. While Daisy Lou waited for her mom to die, her older brother Carlton set out on his own career as an all-around hustler while her remaining sibling, Jerry, went off to homestead land outside Shelby. By the time Daisy Lou arrived in New York—changing her name to Amelia, recording a few demo records, and performing at churches—it was the 1920's, and her fluttery personality had become as outdated as her musical style. Things could have been worse, though: at least Amelia avoided Jerry's bitterly hard frontier existence, whose only possible redemption would come in the form of an oil well. After the oil boom had passed, prodding Shelby's desperate citizens to dream up the championship fight as a way to lure investment dollars, innocent Amelia decided to come for a visit. The fight changed her life so decisively that she never again left Shelby, but found herself, instead, sitting in the multipurpose room 50 years later, flanked by a scheming brother and an ex-husband, conscientiously preparing for her final song. A pleasurable dip into a long-lost time with its nearly extinct brand of Americans—accomplished, entertaining fiction.