A good-natured debut novel by Wall (If I Were a Man, I’d Marry Me, not reviewed), who offers a comic portrait of small-town life in the South.
Lacking much in the way of distractions, the townsfolk of Leaper’s Fork, Tennessee, have nothing much to preoccupy themselves except for each other—so it’s a good thing that most of the locals are oddballs and characters worthy of Carl Reiner or Erskine Caldwell. Foremost among these are the Belle women, five generations of floozies who have managed down the years to amass one of the largest fortunes in the region without ever (or often) stooping to marriage. Musette, the matriarch of the clan, survives to this day in the form of the nude statue she posed for, which sits atop her grave. Her granddaughter Charlotte, technically a spinster though far from a virgin, is a hardheaded businesswoman who makes a rare indulgence into sentimentality by adopting her late sister’s daughter Angela. As feral as a wildcat, the slatternly Angela has an innate gift for striking men dumb with desire in spite of her unwashed clothes and stringy, matted hair. One of her most hopeless victims is Adam Montgomery, a young doctor from Boston who moved to Leaper’s Fork to set up his practice. Unhappily married, Adam feels guilty about his obsession with Angela—but he’d feel better if he knew that his prim wife, Lydia, was carrying on with a local handyman who seems to find a lot to work on at her house. And when the new minister is seduced in the graveyard by one of the Belles, the entire balance of power seems set to shift in town.
Fast, funny, and surprisingly fresh: Wall’s doings manage even to overshadow their author’s dependence on one-liners (“How she stayed in the missionary position long enough to get pregnant was a mystery”) and draw the reader into her very strange and hilarious world.