The feckless frolics of a Mississippi town fill the pages of Dunn’s clever, comical second outing, which romps on the heels of his acclaimed Ella Minnow Pea (2001).
The school of hard knocks is in session in Higby, but none of the knocks is ever quite a knockout. When teenager Clint, the minister’s son still missing his mamma a couple of years after her death, falls off the town’s rickety old water-tower when the catwalk gives way, he falls into a swimming pool and emerges with only bruises. His dad, Oren, doubts himself and his faith after Clint’s mishap, but a chance encounter with the owner of Higby’s massage parlor gives him something else to think about. Meanwhile, on her way to a party at Tie’s house, a man she’s admired from afar in church, Carmen Valentine trips over a crack in the sidewalk and scrapes the skin off half her face. Deciding to skip the party, she massively rear-ends Euless’s pickup, which he’s stopped along the road to help the Alzheimer’s-befuddled brother of his mother’s best friend. Carmen decides she might like Euless better than Tie, who has by now already begun to make out with his housemate Stewie’s fiancé, who is fed up with Stewie having recently dedicated his life to Christ. As for Euless, he’s ashamed of his carnal feelings for Carmen and runs away when she takes him home. Stewie and his fiancé, on the other hand, rediscover their passion for each other in a most unlikely place. And then there’s the good-times sister of the ex-con’s girlfriend who’s kidnapped by a local religious cult.
Characters largely conventional, slightly soulful, and just a bit off their nut are the tried-and-true formula of any wacky southern farce, but success here stems also from the delightful way so many lives are seamlessly made utterly interdependent.