In Chorneau’s (Enterprise Reporting, 2017) novel, the residents of a small, Northern California town unite to arrange a marriage—and keep the town alive.
In the tiny burg of Drytown, lifelong resident Benny Rue has a serious problem on his hands. He’s comfortable with his life and his work at the Stop-N-Shop, but the fact that his soon-to-be-ex-wife, Cora, left him the year before still weighs on him. Due to a complicated situation involving a family trust, Benny must remarry in order to keep living in his house. Also, due to an easement, if he loses the house, the residents could lose access to the local well. As a result, he’s determined to woo a woman who just arrived in town. Chorneau sets up the building blocks for a potential romance fairly early, but he has something different in mind. The story moves at a relaxed but steady pace, and although it has a number of different plot threads, it ultimately works best as a portrait of the varied and intriguing residents of Drytown. Not every character is well rounded, but all get the opportunity to show their places in the town’s society. The best characterizations give readers a detailed look at the residents’ rich, sometimes-surprising inner lives. That said, the author sometimes supplies artificial solutions to plot problems; for example, he dispatches a potential romantic rival with an utterly unbelievable coincidence involving Benny’s new neighbors. Still, the author manages to capture the rhythms and pleasures of small-town life with an authenticity that makes the work an entertaining experience.
Strong characterizations and a palpable sense of place overcome this novel’s plot contrivances.