MERMAIDS IN THE BASEMENT by Michael Lee West

MERMAIDS IN THE BASEMENT

KIRKUS REVIEW

Southern belles hell-bent on belated truth-telling in West’s latest wacky outing (Mad Girls in Love, 2005, etc.).

After a six-month saltwater-taffy binge on North Carolina’s outer banks, Renata, a screenwriter, is shopping for a cashmere sweater to send to her sweetie, Ferg, a director who’s on location in Dublin shooting the “remake” of James Joyce’s Ulysses. She spots a tabloid depicting Ferg in a pub in the clutches of “man-eating actress” Esmé Vasquez, who plays Molly Bloom. After the shopkeeper inflicts an impromptu mullet on Renata, she flees to Alabama, into the sheltering arms of her paternal grandmother, Honora, who’s hosting an engagement party for Louie, Renata’s daddy. When, after a few too many flutes of champagne, Renata confronts Louie’s fiancée, squeaky-voiced Joie, in Honora’s attached garage, Joie rips off Renata’s pearls. Later, Joie is found comatose in the garden pond, and a few loose pearls in drops of blood on the garage floor point to Renata as the suspect. Still above suspicion is Honora’s friend Isabella, a former Hollywood actress who’s inserted Lord knows how many valiums in the chocolate-covered strawberries Joie was last seen gorging on. Isabella thinks it’s high time someone told Renata about the secrets harbored by her mother, Shelby, who, long divorced from controlling cardiologist Louie, has recently perished in a plane crash with her longtime second husband, a movie producer. Family retainer Gladys, Isabella and Honora alternate revelations. In 1972, Shelby had an affair with studly hairdresser Kip. Shelby’s father was accidentally shot while quail hunting with Kip and Louie. After Shelby almost drowned while cavorting with Kip, she and Louie reached a turbulent truce. Isabella’s affair with Louie and her compulsion to lace comestibles with pharmaceuticals caused her husband’s not-so-accidental death. More brutal unveilings follow, until Renata achieves a rueful understanding of her father’s and lover’s motives.

Few surprises on the road to rapprochement, but the belles’s barbed commentary never fails to entertain.

Pub Date: Jan. 8th, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-06-018405-6
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2007




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