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BEAUTY by Frederick Dillen


by Frederick Dillen

Pub Date: March 4th, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4767-1692-3
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

After a career closing factories, a woman reclaims her blue-collar roots, revives a plant and saves a community.

Oh yes, she also gets a shot at true love in this third novel from Dillen (Fool, 1999, etc.). Bony and flat-chested, Carol MacLean would never be considered attractive. Yet she is a commanding presence and not just because of her 6-foot-1-inch height; Carol, a single workaholic, is a natural leader. The irony is that instead of leading her own company, she has been a so-called undertaker, burying failing plants after buyouts by her private equity employers. Though it hurts this daughter of a Detroit machinist to bring bad news to working people, she’s very good at what she does, and her boss, Baxter, has promised her her own company after one more burial. About time; Carol is 56. But as she’s burying a fish processor on the Massachusetts shore, she learns that the promised company has gone to a rival. Carol, sobbing, collapses in the parking lot, where she’s found by Ezekiel “Easy” Parsons, a lifelong fisherman, captain of a stern dragger. Easy surely has to be Mr. Right, but business comes first. There are two plants. The new plant is heavily indebted; that’s Baxter’s problem. Carol sees her opening in the still-functional old plant. She will buy it from Baxter and transfer the all-female workforce once she has persuaded a Town Hall meeting of her sincerity. There are strong echoes of Jimmy Stewart rallying the townspeople in It’s A Wonderful Life. Carol has Anna Rose, redoubtable organizer of the Wives of the Sea, on her side; the town is thrilled; Carol is a hero. All this happens at improbable breakneck speed, but Dillen presents the business choices so clearly that we cut him some slack. While the way forward will not be problem-free, the story’s sentimental populism has its own momentum.

Kudos to Dillen for his unusual premise. The workplace drama that follows is rousing, if predictable.