Book Review: Queen Bee of Mimosa Branch by Haywood Smith

queen bee of mimosa branchLinwood Breedlove Scott’s life has officially hit rock bottom. Her husband of thirty years has run off with a stripper. The IRS has taken everything but her coffee table. And her hot flashes are four-alarmers. The only thing that could make being flat-broke and fifty any worse is having to crawl home to her parents’ house in Mimosa Branch, Georgia…which is exactly where she’s headed.

Lin’s barely prepared for the loony bin that greets her, from her controlling, eighty-year-old mother and shockingly blunt father to her long-suffering Aunt Glory and her deranged Uncle Bedford who is convinced a cannibal lives under the furniture. Nor is she ready for the instant love-hate attraction she feels for her handsome new next-door neighbor. Trying to navigate her way through the second act of her life with nothing more than a prepaid calling card, a broken heart, and plenty of Prozac, Lin’s about to discover that it’s never too late for old friends, new romance, the ties of family, and a second chance to survive it all on the road to becoming the person you were always meant to be…

Given to me as a birthday present. Published by St Martin’s Press. Author website here.

After a painful betrayal and divorce from her husband of 30 years (who got engaged to a 22 year old stripper whilst still being married, and racked up $200,000 of debt before clearing out) Lin finds herself returning to the parental home in Georgia as the only place she has left.  Having gotten married at 19 – as a way of escaping the Southern madness of her family – Lin has never really grown up or learnt to look after herself as number 1. Therefore her emotions on the reality of staying with her parents under the circumstances are that of the 19year old Lin when she left, with all the tantrums and petulance that comes with it. Nearing menopause, and used to Air Conditioning, she has forgotten how to deal with the heat of Georgia in summer, and is often out of her comfort zone, both physically and emotionally.

By accident more than design, she ends up covering at the neighbourhood drug store when one of the staff goes down sick and that gives Lin the money and the confidence to settle in, convert her parent’s garage apartment into something useful, all whilst getting her real estate licence.  It also gives her the excuse to stay away from her family – many of who are getting old and more than a little demented in their old age.

The work brings her not only in contact with much of the local community, but also with Grant, the druggist, an attractive man who is home to clear up his father’s estate and store before selling it. Viewed through external eyes, Mimosa Branch politics is greedy, corrupt and racist, and it is soon clear that something needs to be done – and it is for Grant and Lin to be in the thick of things.   The Mayor and his cronies are suitably intimidating and threatening and you can understand why the fictional characters of this town feel unable to change the status quo.

The story is told by Lin in the first person, and there is a little bit of casual conversation in the style (“more of that later” and “did I tell you….” kind of thing). It happened enough to be noticeable, and it was borderline annoying – but not quite annoying to turn me off completely. Lin certainly grows up in this story – certainly not the 50-going-on-19 who first turned up at the beginning, and she manages to work through what it means to be a single woman of a certain age.

After being very much in the forefront of the book at the beginning (to show how mad the house is), Lin’s parents and Uncle soon disappear from the story about half way through, even after a heart to heart with Aunt Gloria in the car – with the air con on – which demonstrated to Lin she’s not the only outsider in the family and many people make sacrifices to be with the people they love.  Lin has to deal with her being newly divorced at 50, living in her parents’ rambling run down home, and having a teenage crush on her employer which she hasn’t decided if she will ever act on or not. Trough this time, she comes to realise that she has buried herself away from her family, not realising how much she has missed out on. She has always thought of her brother as a wastrel and unreliable, but his help and patience whilst clearing the garage, whilst following the tenets of the AA  that has allowed him to let go of the things he cannot change.

So this is a book about a “coming of age” that is 50 years in the making and what it means to be a woman, a daughter, a sister and a friend. I know some reviewers don’t like Lin as a character (serves me right for reading reviews BEFORE I read the book!), but she’s a flawed character who has some redeeming characteristics and it is a satisfactory book in the end.

Additional Resources

Review at All About Romance

An Accidental Blog‘s review

 

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