In another beguiling tale of life in the New South, a man learns some hard truths when he’s fired and his life seems to be in free-fall.
In his 40s, with a perfect job, happily married to Clarice, his son Palmer in medical school, Will Baggett thinks he has everything. Which means he’s set for a terrible fall as hubris, always prickly about complacency, steps in to teach Will some painful lessons. Along the way, Inman (Dairy Queen Days, 1997, etc.) introduces a passel of colorful characters, among them the protean lawyer Morris deLesseps, who recently wore buckskins but is now in a professorial tweed-jacket phase; Peachy Delchamps, an aspiring country singer as well as basketball player, who invented the famous “Peachy Pump”; and Will’s father, charming Tyler, who made his living “fleecing suckers.” The popular weather forecaster for a Raleigh TV station, Will takes his job seriously—he speaks at schools and garden clubs, and he checks out the malls so as to be available for his fans. He’s that rare creature, a seemingly happy man—until his station is bought and he’s fired. On his way to get his severance package, he’s stopped for running a light and has to appear in court; Clarice locks him out and demands a divorce; and when he goes to court, wearing his son’s jacket by mistake, drugs are found in the pocket, and he’s sent to the slammer. Will, whose parents died in a plane crash when he was 13, realizes, when cousin Wingfoot brings him back to the decaying family home, that he has never allowed himself to mourn them. But Will is strong and resilient; virtually destitute, he starts up a lawn-care business, and, over the summer, not only learns more about himself and his wife and son but begins to find that “other life” that Wingfoot says everyone has.
Ruefully wise. It warms and cheers like the best kind of southern comfort.