Stannard’s first novel in a planned trilogy navigates the nuances of human nature in small-town Alabama.
Dot Parsons’ everyday life as a dental assistant in Deansboro has always been shadowed by one question: What if she’d married her high school beau, Honey Poudreaux? After they were crowned king and queen at the Stonepile Possum Ball, their future seemed etched in the stars, but Honey left her for another girl, and Dot settled for George Parsons. These days, George’s infidelities are only drops in the bucket of Dot’s tumultuous life; for example, her new boss’s totalitarian rule has made work a nightmare, and her aunt is descending into Alzheimer’s disease. Meanwhile, Ricky Spurling, a member of a backwater clan of dog-fighters and meth-dealers, has a bone to pick with her; she learns this when Ricky bites her finger during a routine X-ray of his teeth and cryptically promises more pain to come. Her bewilderment becomes fear when she recalls their shared history—a chance meeting more than 10 years ago. This mystery, however, takes a back seat to the novel’s other intricate relationships. Dot, with her charming friend Ettie, tries to thaw Dr. Lowry’s frigid northern sensibilities and warm him to the southern way of life, while George and Honey still coolly regard one another, years after their rivalry should have been extinguished. Soon, deputy sheriff Hal Dalton finds himself vying for Dot’s affections, as well. The result is a beautifully rendered patchwork of interesting lives. The myriad, always entertaining subplots examine why people cling so fearfully to the past, why they lament change, and how they can start anew when opportunities for happiness have been lost. The incredibly likable Dot is a strong-willed spitfire who still pores over her own shortcomings. She could stand toe-to-toe with Evelyn Couch and Idgie Threadgoode from Fannie Flagg’s Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe (1987)—and perhaps even teach them a thing or two about living.
A highly readable, authentic Southern story.