In her second novel, Michele Feltman-Strider paints a vivid, if not entirely flattering, portrait of life in the deep, deep South. Her characters are real and gritty and very believably flawed. These are not the old money type characters seen in her first novel, Homecoming: A Novella, but honest to goodness, Alabama rednecks. From the trailers they live in to the cars they drive, Feltman-Strider, nails them with language and description that keeps them from becoming caricatures.
The story revolves around an overweight Sharon Matthers, who expects that her life will be the typical hometown story with no real aspirations for anything more. She's content to marry a dead beat drug dealer shortly after graduating high school, despite the fact that she's not pregnant and doesn't have to. It just seems like the thing to do. At first her life carries on much as she expected until she lands a job at a bakery and meets people who aren't content with accepting what life hands them, but want more. Sharon starts to wonder if maybe there's not something more for her too, even if it seems impossible to attain. The store's kind and motivated butcher, Alan, introduces her to new foods and experiences and expands her horizons, even if those horizons only extend as far as New Orleans, which by comparison to her hometown, is truly the big time.
Sharon's life does progress beyond the small Alabama town, but not in ways she expected or even hoped for. Sharon finds the grass isn't always greener and that things aren't always what they seem. Events take place that are out of her control and send her off searching once again. Sharon is not the poster child for good decisions and there were times when I wanted to smack her and hug her at the same time for being so incredibly stupid. Each bad decision though leads her a step closer to the one thing only she can find: herself.
One significant event that takes place during the book is Hurricane Katrina and Feltman-Strider handles it beautifully. The desperation, despair, fear, tragedy and hope in the days and weeks immediately following are incredibly well written and takes the reader to the city in its darkest moments. I applaud Feltman-Strider for this.
The book spans from the small Alabama to New Orleans, to the Plains and Pacific Northwest and has many twists and turns that are skillfully woven in. Some twists are easy to guess while others will shock you with how amazingly they were written so that you would never have guessed them.
Michele Feltman-Strider has once again offered up a solid story and characters and uses wit and narrative to weave them into a story that will make you want to read it again and again.
Plump, unattractive, and underachieving, Sharon Mathers isn't the kind of girl usually found in glossy women's magazines. She is the kind of girl found reading them, usually while drinking beer in the backroom of her friend's double-wide trailer/beauty parlor. Born to a single mother in a small town where family ties run “deep enough to be genetically suspect,” Sharon grew up on the social fringe. Unfortunately, marrying a hometown boy and “by extension, almost half of the town,” didn't help. Sharon's longing for deep and authentic ties of kinship takes her farther and farther from her Alabama home town in search of a real “home.” Her journey leads her to the sweaty, boozy, sexy streets of the French Quarter and on to the golden prairies of Oklahoma where silver fighter jets pierce a perfect blue sky. Passing through the surreal, nightmarish aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, she ultimately discovers a place of acceptance she never expected.
About the Author
Michele Feltman Strider originally became a writer because of her deep appreciation for near rhyme. After publishing her first book "Homecoming: A Novella," Michele quickly realized that becoming a novelist not only exempted her from real work, but gave her the opportunity to write third person book jacket biographies about herself. Michele grew up largely in the southern US where she graduated from the University of South Alabama with a degree in, of all of the well considered majors, Theater. Michele currently lives in the outrageously pleasant San Francisco Bay Area with her devoted and uxorious husband Jim and two semi-rotten cats. In addition to her work as a novelist, Michele is also an active blogger, tweeter, and chocolate chip cookie eater.