A prodigal daughter returns to her hometown in Montana to make amends; mayhem and hilarity ensue.
When Rachel Flood returns to Quinn, population 956, moving into the ruined trailer bequeathed her by her father, the reception is cool. Her mother, Laverna, who owns a bar called The Dirty Shame, is "surprised that her daughter had shown up to claim the inheritance. Laverna thought of Rachel the same way she thought about the time her appendix had burst—sometimes things could come from inside your body and suddenly betray you, nearly killing you." And that's one of the more positive reactions. Growing up in Quinn, blonde, beautiful Rachel was the town slut, blamed for countless divorces, a murder, and a robbery. Nine years later, she's gotten sober in Alcoholics Anonymous and returned against her sponsor's advice to make amends. The trailer she's inherited is next door to her former best friend, Krystal, who's now shacked up with a horrible, damaged man named Bert, their baby, and Krystal's older child, 12-year-old Jake. Young Jake is debut novelist Fifield's finest creation, his outfits and obsessions (Madonna, Jackie Collins, Erica Kane) laid out in loving detail. "He dressed in satin pajamas, lime in color, and...sprayed his quilt with a bottle of Lady Stetson perfume, another thrift store find, the contents stretched with tap water." Other characters include Black Mabel and Red Mabel—"While Black Mabel dressed to instill fear, Red Mabel would just as soon punch you in the face"; Buley Savage Connor, a morbidly obese, 60-year-old thrift store proprietor; Rocky Bailey, her 30-year-old boyfriend; Martha Man Hands; Jim Number Three; and packs of lesbian silver and talc miners. Several of the above play on The Dirty Shame's women's softball team, whose 1991 season defines the arc of the tale. It includes bar fights and AA meetings, a parade, a wedding, and a black bear, all of which Fifield juggles beautifully until the ending, which feels both inevitable and wrong. Read it anyway.
The Wild West earns its name all over again in this lovable chronicle of small-town insanity.