By Lisa Patton
Thomas Dunne Books, 2009
Reviewed by Julia Oliver
This debut novel combines deep-South, heart-warming, chick-lit style with a chill-out setting way north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Leelee Satterfield is happily and generationally entrenched in Memphis, Tennessee; she and her husband Baker, whom she’s adored since they were in the tenth grade, have two small daughters. Life is idyllic, until that husband talks her into leaving their comfort zone to become inn-keepers in Vermont. Leelee’s three best-friends-forever think she’s lost her mind, but they rally around and give the Satterfields a going away party.
Leelee is cheerfully determined to make the best of what appears to be a big mistake. Despite the quaintness of the setting, the inn that becomes their next home is a charmless catastrophe—there’s a pervasive foul odor about the place; the furnishings are ugly; and the former owners, an unpleasant, bossy woman named Helga and her brother, have arranged to remain on staff.
Although Leelee’s husband soon shows his true, selfish colors, the steel magnolia heroine proves her mettle and rises to every occasion, including a new romance in her life. By the time she’s learned to deal with sheets of ice sliding off the roof, vampire flies, and "mud season," Leelee has begun to like living in Vermont. Eventually, however, she decides that enough is enough and heads back home to Memphis, where the loyal best friends concoct a scheme to ensure that she will stay and be happy forever after.
The book’s packaging is quite attractive, but the storyline is sometimes padded with observation. It’s obvious early on that we’re in the mindset of a Pollyanna-ish protagonist who thinks in phrases such as "Thank you, Lord Jesus." She and the rest of the cast of characters "giggle," "peek," "beam," "sob," "bop," and "glance at one another in outrage." And they know people who would go so far as "duking it out and rolling around on the floor." The author, who according to the jacket information has "more than twenty years’ experience working in the music and entertainment business," is a graduate of the University of Alabama. Dec 2009
Novelist and journalist Julia Oliver lives in Montgomery.