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Southern families and crumbling marriages are center stage in a capable if routine debut.

Braselton launches the story with quirky comic flair by reporting Jessie's compulsive fantasies about how her husband might meet an accidental death. Turner's great crime is his predictability; he’s a nice enough fellow for a banker, but life with an upright, stable do-gooder has apparently killed any passion Jessie felt for him. Marriage to Turner brought this native of rural Randolph Gap, Alabama, across the state line to tidy Glenville, Georgia, into a tailored, planned community and a faux-Georgian house. Jessie's upward mobility, though applauded by her sanctimonious mother, has left her wondering what life is all about. It doesn't help that her best friend is having an adulterous affair with a young department-store salesclerk, or that new client Wanda McNabb (Jessie is a mental-health worker) has recently killed her husband in self-defense. In an attempt to gather her thoughts, Jessie, approaching 40 and despondent about her inability to conceive a child, goes home to Randolph Gap for a weekend. If solutions don't arise from the visit, at least she gets to witness her mother crashing her Lincoln Town Car into the steps of the Holy Rock Church. As is often the case in real life, actually taking the trip down memory lane is less satisfying than thinking about it, and what Jessie gets in Randolph Gap is a hangover from a night on the town with her sister (having just left her husband, nympho Ellen is also staying with their parents), an escapade involving a large stuffed duck, and a crying jag over the grave of her first boyfriend. Dissatisfaction abounds: all the main players are disappointed with their husbands, their lives, the prospect of a future that can be called from the sidelines. Braselton's too-cohesive theme inevitably falls a little flat as a promising start sinks into familiar terrain.

A solid tale of country-fried suburban woes with few surprises.

Pub Date: Oct. 2nd, 2001
ISBN: 0-345-44311-X
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Ballantine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2001