Laughter IS the Best Medicine
Leave it to Susan Reinhardt to tackle an extremely disturbing topic—spousal abuse—while writing about the recovery in a very funny way. And that’s just what she does in her latest novel, Chimes From a Cracked Southern Belle.
Prudy (Dee) Millings is trying to put her life back together after doctors have done the same for her poor ol’ body. Recovering from a near-fatal attack by her psycho-preacher-ex, she and her two “young-uns” are trying to move forward again. A former Homecoming Queen, Dee has now put a few pounds and did not finish nursing school before running off with the most handsome man in the county. Her two cheerleaders in this endeavor are her mother (who’s almost as crazy as her ex) and her Aunt Weepy—who scours the obit section of the newspaper daily so she can plan to crash nearby funerals (whether she knows the deceased or not) in order to be invited to the “covered dish” afterwards. (Now I don’t like to cook either—but this seems a bit extreme…) Two years after the attack, doctors say her bones are healing fine, but it’s her spirit that needs the most help…
When I first discovered why this Southern belle was “cracked”, I thought to myself, “Here we go—another depressing Black and Blue…” but I was pleasantly surprised. It’s not that Susan sugar-coated the abuse issue—we learn about every gory cut, scar and crushed limb—but I was amazed that she was able to write about it in such a way that the tone was ultimately uplifting. Instead of framing our protagonist Dee as a victim, we see how she eventually became a survivor—and thriver—in life.
It was an enjoyable, well-paced and entertaining read with fascinating characters (and I do mean “characters”…) a positive message, and some of the best one-liners ever. Rounding up her description of Dee’s mother, she writes, “She meant well. Only I wasn’t well enough for what she meant.” After Dee runs over a squirrel with her car—which was a bit too reminiscent of her recent “accident” in which her Baptist preacher husband tries to run her over with the church van—she is obviously emotional and guilt-ridden. The author describes Dee’s ensuing “rodent CPR” episode, and then her mother reacts, “Get away from that thing right now!…You could get rabies. I didn’t raise you to French kiss road kill…”And finally, she writes of Dee’s physical urges, “I was almost at the point, lust-wise, of putting a personal ad in the paper.” Wanted, DFHMWMOT (Disease Free Heterosexual Man With Majority Of Teeth) for three to four nights of fun. No attachments. No commitments.”
Fans of Fanny Flagg and Beth Hoffman will love this little Southern slice of life. It also reminded me of Robert Leleux’s memoir, “The Living End”, that he wrote about the serious topic of his grandmother’s Alzheimer’s, in that Susan finds the (funny) silver lining without diminishing the impact of the subject. I’d be curious to hear how a survivor of abuse reacts to this book. For the rest of us—it’s a highly recommended read!
Details, Links & Resources:
The Book: Chimes From a Cracked Southern Belle by Susan Reinhardt; Graceful Steps; June 2013
Author’s Website: Susan Reinhardt.com
The Publisher: Graceful Steps
Short Author Interview video: Citizen-Times.com
Author Reading: YouTube
Related Book Club Cheerleader post by author: What Not to Say at Book Club
GoodReads: 4.23 ranking*
Amazon: 4.9 rating*
Angela’s Smexy Reviews: 4 rating
* at the time of this posting
Disclaimer: I met the author several years ago at a writer’s conference and received a copy of the book for review purposes. I do not receive any compensation for any feature or recommendation that appears on my website or recommendation I make to my clubs. I am a member of Amazon Associates program, and I do get a small amount of money if you buy a book using my links. So far, I’ve earned enough to buy a bag of Meow Mix™ for my cats, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid…