Light, entertaining tale of a social butterfly who finds unexpected rewards outside her cocoon.
Pushing 50, Bonnie Duke Cullman, once the quintessential southern debutante, later the paradigmatic clubwoman—married, two children, big house, busy, charity-drive–centered life—sees it all suddenly gone with the wind. Her husband goes broke, her house goes up for sale, her kids go their own self-absorbed ways, and Bonnie finds herself going to an Alabama small town called Florabama and to a job she feels thoroughly ill-equipped to handle—mostly because she’s never handled any kind of job before. She’s to run something called the Displaced Homemakers Program at Marion Hawkins College, a “strictly no-frills” institution catering to the underprivileged, underfunded, and undervalued. But on her first day Bonnie discovers that she’ll be dealing with a special variety of displaced homemaker, thrown out of work when the Cherished Lady Lingerie Company peremptorily shut down its Florabama factory. Cherished Lady’s ex-employees are seriously angry and have signed up for the program mostly because of the financial aid attached. So on one side we have Bonnie—nervous, uncertain, thoroughly aware that she got her job because her influential daddy called in a favor—and on the other Ruth, Hilly, Lyda Jane et al., suspicious and more than ready to distrust anyone else because experience has taught them to expect nothing but the short straw. Lots of wary eyeballing. Lots of opportunity for miscommunication. Not at all a promising outlook for a productive relationship. And yet that’s exactly what it turns out to be as opposites cross-pollinate, leading to mutual appreciation, respect, accomplishment, and finally real friendship.
As she’s amply demonstrated many times (Bed and Breakfast, 1996, etc.), Battle knows how to write about women, how to evoke a milieu, and, above all, how to keep a plot boiling.