Reviewed by Kim Harris Thacker: mommy, writer, and Bookshop Talk host
Molly McCarty has been away from her hometown of El Dorado Springs, Missouri for years, but two things about it haven’t changed: Everyone in El Dorado knows everyone else’s business, and business is...quirky. Molly’s old friend, Jerry Ray Turner, is now a cross-dresser—though he’s still the best mechanic in town, even done up in rhinestones and heels. Winthrop Worthington, the town’s (married) playboy is still making eyes at anything in a skirt (except for Jerry), and Ollie Griffin is bathing in the fountain in the park, since there’s no shower inside the 1969 Thunderbird in which he has lived since returning home from Vietnam. Still, not much can surprise Molly—unless it’s the facts that Roy Bob Benson is trying to open a strip club in the old jewelry building, and the ghost of the teenaged girl who died at Serenity Farm (which Molly and her husband just bought) is still hanging around to do chores.
Though the cast of characters in Kathie Truitt’s second novel is a large one, each character is fully realized and utterly believable. As a native of a small town, I particularly appreciated the manner in which Truitt depicts the loyalty the townspeople feel toward each other, even though they don’t always see eye-to-eye. I also sympathized with the characters who feel as if they are constantly being scrutinized. The problems in this small town are small problems, for the most part, but because people are so connected to each other in El Dorado, everyone feels the weight of everyone else’s burdens—a beautiful idea and one that is true to country living, in my experience.
Characters are certainly the focus of this novel, and one character really stood out to me. Oddly enough, this character is not the main character of Molly McCarty, but the narrator, whose identity is not revealed until the end of the book (a delightful, reader-hooking tactic!). I also appreciated the solid plot, which moves along at a pace appropriate to a character-driven novel.
Readers who enjoy classic small town novels such as Jan Karon’s “Mitford” books and Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows’ THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY will surely adore Kathie Truitt’s THE HILLBILLY DEBUTANTE CAFÉ, which, while being a little sassier than the aforementioned books, is quite as charming and heartwarming.
Adult themes: PTSD (one of the characters is a Vietnam veteran), infidelity in marriage, death of loved ones, financial struggles, and discrimination