Bohemian Hoboken comes to buttoned-up Georgia in a smarter-than-average, second-time-around romance.
They were clearly made for each other, but gorgeous, fashion-challenged Italian-American filmmaker Angie Mangiamele and “elegant and beautiful and strong” John Grant, academic scion of a significant Southern family, blew their first shot at a relationship in New York five years before this story opens. Lippi (Homestead, 1999) never explains precisely why, but it had something to do with Angie dying her hair blue before meeting John’s grandfather. They’re reunited here by a fairy godmother in the form of Miss Zula Bragg, an elderly black writer and creative-writing teacher at Ogilvie College, where John now works. Miss Zula never fully divulges her reasons for picking Angie’s film company, Tied to the Tracks, to make a college-sponsored documentary about her, but the crew arrives in Georgia only days before John’s wedding to Caroline Rose, predictably upsetting all plans. Small-town gossips, busybodies, family loyalties and traditions supply Lippi’s sharp eye and dry wit with an abundance of material. Her touch is determinedly light, with only occasional references to less cozy issues like segregation and miscegenation that lurk beneath the largely benign Southern surface. Strongly cinematic and keen to compensate with charm for what it lacks in pace and plot, the novel is essentially an intelligent romp. The author pads the on-again/off-again love story with scenes of anger and sex while everyone waits for Caroline to break off the engagement. Lippi delays this until the very last minute, well after the book has run out of steam, while keeping her underlying themes of truth and deception too heavily tamped down.
Bright and entertaining, but ephemeral.