Tandy Caide, a dedicated CPA in small-town America, can handle the complexities of everyone’s tax returns. But can she handle an affair with the new vocational agriculture teacher?
Ash’s debut novel brilliantly captures the slanted quirkiness of a Midwest full of small-business owners and exploding home-methamphetamine labs. For the last 25 years, Tandy has striven to live a life of integrity, always conscious of her role in the economic stability of the town. She has quarterly lunches with the Order of the Pessimists, a sodality helmed by her late father’s grumpy friends Doc and Huff, who lovingly criticize her like a daughter. Partly that’s because Huff practically disowned his own daughter, Barb, when she ran off just before high school graduation and came back pregnant. As a waitress, she’s raised Hope alone. She did pretty well until the night of this year's high school musical, Annie, when a rather inebriated Hope played a rather violent Ms. Hannigan. No longer welcome in the regular high school, Hope joins the Vo-Ag class. The night of the musical was also the night Tandy met the Vo-Ag teacher, occasionally known by his given name of Kenny Tischer. Soon Tandy and the strange Vo-Ag teacher, who wears not only a ponytail, but also wool man clogs, have embarked on a passionate romance. Meanwhile, Tandy’s obese husband, Gerald, checks himself into a mental health facility, and Hope seems to have picked up a shady job with a shady farmhand. With staccato phrasing and acerbic observations about the mundane foolishness of everyone’s lives, Ash keenly captures Tandy’s dry wit. Tandy doesn’t simply work as a CPA; she possesses an accountant’s soul, as hilariously evinced by her tallying the costs and benefits of waving to her clients and chaperoning the Vo-Ag students.
Darkly hilarious and weirdly beguiling.