Second Bookses

It's like second breakfast. Only with books.
Queen Bee of Mimosa Branch - Haywood Smith I am physically unable to enter a bookstore and not buy something for myself. During a recent trip to Barnes & Noble, I headed into the bargain section after selecting the gift I went for in the first place. Of course, trying to find a winner in the piles of bargain books is tough when you have an impatient four-year-old in tow, and I selected Queen Bee of Mimosa Branch mainly by its cheerful cover art.::: The Basics :::Linwood Breedlove was in a hurry to get out of Mimosa Branch, and married at 19, thinking she'd never go back other than the occasional visit. Of course, when your husband takes up with a 20-something stripper, spends all your money, and racks up a world of debt, things change in a hurry, and Lin (as she is known) is forced to move back into the family house with her parents Mamie, a stereotypical Southern woman with her Garden Club and set-in-stone ideas about society; and The General, a racist, sexist bigot who appears to be in the beginning stages of Alzheimer's. Add in his younger brother, who has more advanced Alzheimer's (or as Lin puts it, the permanent DTs from years of alcoholism) and his wife Aunt Glory, as well as Lin's hard-drinking, always-failing brother Tommy and you can see why she'd flee.Of course, no book about middle aged dumping (think First Wives Club) would be complete without friends, and Lin's include old school buddy Tricia, who she mainly talks to long-distance, and Cassie, who has recently come back to Mimosa Branch and come out as a lesbian (because, of course, the first place you want to go when coming out in your fifties is home to your very small, very prejudiced town).Add in the love interest (a pharmacist from the radical state of California who has all SORTS of non-Southern ideas), and a former drug-addict who is now a biker, preacher, and political candidate running against the corrupt mayor (another stereotype... I kept picturing him as Boss Hogg from Dukes of Hazzard), and, well, you have yourself a cast.::: The Good :::The book starts out with promise. The idea of starting out in the world for the first time at the age of fifty-something and having to do so with such an eccentric cast of characters while dealing with your father's encroaching Alzheimer's could have been a great book. The first third or so I was sure it could have been an Oprah book. You know, that whole "woman taking control of her life" bit. The character development was good. You saw not only Lin's interactions with her family, but also with her friend Tricia, and could see how hard she was trying to fit both worlds together.Lin's strained relations with her parents and brother had real potential, and I really wanted to keep reading to see what happened with them all, and how Lin would do with a new career (she took a job in the pharmacy while taking a real estate course), new place to live (fixing up the apartment over the garage at her parents'), and possible new love (the pharmacist).::: The Bad :::At some point, it seems like Haywood Smith lost track of the book she started writing, almost as if she lost her perspective on making the character somewhat autobiographical and threw her whole self in. The character development she spent on the beginning of the book was tossed aside, as her relationship with her parents, aunt, and uncle become sidelines. Her relationship with her brother has a pat ending somewhere halfway through the book where she finds out he is in AA and has been sober. Oh, she's proud and "The End."The rest of the book is devoted to the all-too-pat political campaign, with machinations by the corrupt mayor from forging official documents to voter fraud, as well as the story about the love interest, which is what finally pushed me over the edge with this book.Here's a quick plot summary of the love interest: jerk pharmacist neighbor fails to notice that Lin and her mother are trying to get an elderly man wearing nothing but an adult diaper into the house while he berates them for their treatment of a kitten (I'm not kidding... that's his opening scene). Of course, Lin takes a job in the pharmacist that she conveniently falls into, as well as talking to Grant (the pharmacist) about men. The sexual attraction is apparent, and they finally decide to consummate it, only to have Lin back out and Grant basically say that she owed him after the amount he spent on dinner (again, NOT KIDDING).The most confusing part of this entire plot line is that they keep showing him doing things for the community, and to right the injustices, from turning in a doctor prescribing drugs illegally to helping out the crooked doctor's wife, who is in the process of divorcing him. The brief conversation Grant has with Lin about his string of ex-wives does little to set up the man with horns Ms. Smith portrays him as later.::: The End :::Of course, a book with plot lines that go so very awry ends up with such a pat, saccharin ending that you'll gag; I promise. Characters get lost in the writing and are suddenly prominent in the end, and of course, a covert mission to combat voter fraud and a Thelma and Louise road trip are expected, aren't they?The book is a quick, easy read, and would be perfect for beach reading if only there weren't so many "if onlies." Then again, if you really hate men right now, this might be your book.This review originally published on Epinions: http://www.epinions.com/review/Queen_Bee_of_Mimosa_Branch_by_Haywood_Smith/content_143438352004

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