Hot Fudge Sundae Blues

( 2 )


A lyrical coming-of-age story set in the 1960s, Hot Fudge Sundae Blues is an extraordinary companion to Bev Marshall’s first two novels, Walking Through Shadows and Right as Rain. Here again she mines the territory of the small town of Zebulon, Mississippi, where even the most seemingly ordinary folks harbor well-disguised heartaches and intricate secrets.

Thirteen-year-old Layla Jay was only pretending when she knelt before the preacher to seek salvation. She was hoping to make...

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Hot Fudge Sundae Blues

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A lyrical coming-of-age story set in the 1960s, Hot Fudge Sundae Blues is an extraordinary companion to Bev Marshall’s first two novels, Walking Through Shadows and Right as Rain. Here again she mines the territory of the small town of Zebulon, Mississippi, where even the most seemingly ordinary folks harbor well-disguised heartaches and intricate secrets.

Thirteen-year-old Layla Jay was only pretending when she knelt before the preacher to seek salvation. She was hoping to make her grandma happy and get noticed by the cute new boy in town. But religion truly piques her interest when a young, handsome visiting preacher stays at her family’s home. Wallace seems genuinely interested in Layla Jay’s life–until he meets her mama and falls head over heels, like many men have before him.

When Wallace marries Frieda, Layla Jay believes she will finally have the father she’s always wanted. But it seems that none of her dreams will come true as Layla Jay wrestles with her mother’s reckless ways, her unsavory stepfather, a best friend’s betrayal, and the longing for love’s first kiss. Yet everything pales in comparison to what happens next as Layla Jay is forced to tell a lie to save her mother’s world from crashing down.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for Bev Marshall’s Right as Rain

“One of those quietly absorbing stories that draw the reader right in and never let go . . . Reading this novel is like sitting on a porch in a summer breeze listening to an old friend tell you a story you know well but can’t wait to hear again.”
–New Orleans Times Picayune

“An old-fashioned Southern family saga and a page-turner, a wonderful blend of comedy and tragedy . . . These voices ring true.”
–Brad Watson, author of The Heaven of Mercury

Publishers Weekly
Layla Jay, the endearing young narrator of Marshall's third novel (following Right as Rain), fakes salvation at the age of 13 to impress a boy at church. Religious themes play a large role in this coming-of-age tale set in the early 1960s, but the story actually revolves around a different kind of faith-a faith in people and in family, despite all their flaws. Layla Jay leads a relatively happy life in her small Mississippi town, but when her flakey alcoholic mother marries a hypocritical revivalist preacher, their home is thrown into chaos, and Layla Jay comes to realize that God answers prayers in perplexing and often painful ways. In the scattered, melodramatic first half of the book, disasters befall Layla Jay and her family one after another: her grandmother dies, her mother survives a near-fatal car accident, and Layla Jay escapes her stepfather's attempt to rape her only when her mother finishes him off with a 7-Up bottle. The second half of the novel then deepens into an exploration of the consequences of deceit and the nature of familial love. Throughout, Marshall propels the story with all-too-human characters whose faults are enormous and whose mistakes are almost inexcusable, but who are never beyond forgiveness. Agent, Lisa Bankoff. 7-city author tour. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
It is 1963 in Zebulon, Mississippi, and thirteen-year-old Layla Jay fakes comin' to Jesus in order to catch the eye of cute Jehu Albright. Layla Jay's Grandma is thrilled but Frieda, her widowed boozy mother-beautiful, reckless, and desperate to leave Grandma's home-is not about to follow her daughter's path, until she meets the charismatic missionary, Brother Wallace Ebert. A few short months later, Frieda and Wallace are married and Layla Jay's innocent childhood is replaced by the necessary vigilance of the stalked when Wallace turns out to be anything but holy. A series of calamities-Grandma's death, a terrible car accident, toss-away sex with a much older boy, and attempted rape by the brutal Wallace-implode with shocking violence, and Frieda is charged with murder. Marshall, author of Walking Through Shadows (Ballantine, 2005) and Right as Rain (MacAdam Cage, 2002), uses her gift for the fresh, charming voices of bright teens to weave an enchanting, wrenching story of a young girl trying to raise herself as she finesses the obstacles tossed her way by enormously imperfect adults. It is a lovely and highly recommended story that might take a bit of pushing because of the small typeface and its length. An author interview and a reading group guide are included. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P J S A/YA (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult-marketed book recommended for Young Adults). 2005, Ballantine, 272p., Trade pb. Ages 12 to Adult.
—Beth E. Andersen
Library Journal
Faking salvation to comfort Grandma is the beginning of 13-year-old Layla Jay's spiraling descent into a labyrinth of deceit in 1960s Mississippi. Layla Jay feels that she must compromise her soul because God-fearing Grandma is one of only two stable people who love her (the other being Mama, a curvaceous, Lucky Strike-smoking hussy who also loves men, music, and booze). What Mama really wants is a man to move them out of her parents' home, and she is not particular about her Romeo's credentials. Enter Wallace, an Elmer Gantry-like evangelist who's got something other than the Holy Spirit on his mind. When Wallace marries Mama, Layla Jay's haunting web of lies becomes more intricate and nightmarish. As in her previous novels (Walking Through Shadows; Right as Rain), Marshall has written another gem with rich, benighted characters whom small-town Southerners will recognize with affection or horror as one of their own friends, relatives, or unfortunate acquaintances. Marshall's natural Southern voice is a gift to readers who enjoy Sue Monk Kidd, Lee Smith, and Sharyn McCrumb. Highly recommended.-Mary Ellen Elsbernd, Northern Kentucky Univ. Lib., Highland Heights Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345468437
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/30/2005
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.23 (w) x 7.98 (h) x 0.65 (d)

Reading Group Guide

1. Layla Jay begins the book wishing to be like her mother in all respects: the way she looks, the way she is with men, etc. Do you think Layla Jay still feels that way by the end of the book? If not, what do you think changed, and why?

2. Frieda treats Layla Jay “like a girlfriend instead of a daughter.” Do you think this is beneficial for Layla Jay? How do you think it shapes her relationship with her mother, and her relationship with the outside world?

3. Layla Jay has a very strong connection to her father even though she doesn’t remember him. How accurate do you think her depictions of her father are? Do you have similar feelings about someone who passed away and you wish you could have talked to more?

4. When Layla Jay and Frieda move out of Grandma and Papaw’s house in the country and into the city, Layla Jay frequently misses the house and the land.What effect do you think our environment has on us? Did you move as a child? How did the change affect you?

5. Why do you think Layla Jay feels pressured to get saved? What role does religion play in the lives of these characters? Did you ever experience this feeling of pressure by your church affiliation or its members? How did it affect you?

6. The way we view Wallace certainly changes throughout the novel. How did you feel about him when he was first introduced? What exactly do you think his intentions were when he married Frieda? How do you think they shifted, both before and after he was “saved” again?

7. Layla Jay and her mother have the tradition of getting hot fudge sundaes when they feel “as rotten and low and hopeless as you can be and you think the world’s biggest sponge couldn’t mop up all the tears inside of you.”Why do we find comfort in rituals, and do you have any that you rely on to make you feel better when you’re down?

8. Frieda tells Layla Jay that Jehu should make up his mind about his feelings for her.What do you think about Jehu’s seeming ambivalence toward Layla Jay? Do you think he’s a good choice for a boyfriend?

9. Some of the lies Layla Jay tells aren’t as significant as others. Do you think the gravity of the lie makes a difference? Were any, or all, of Layla Jay’s lies justified and okay to tell? When do you think it’s okay to “stretch the truth”?

10. Layla Jay and June are bound by their sense of being outsiders.What criteria do you think is the basis for acceptance in a community? Does this vary if it’s a small town or a city? Have you ever felt like an outsider, and if so, on what do you base your feeling?

11. The friendship between Layla Jay and June develops into a complex relationship. Many changes occur within the friendship, from the day Layla Jay fakes salvation until the last conversation between her and June just before the end of the novel.How did you perceive this relationship and does it seem plausible?

12. Why do you think Layla Jay thinks about commiting suicide? Do you think she seriously considered it? What do you think this indicates about her personality, if anything?

13. Do you think Frieda was justified in attacking Wallace? Do you think she intended to kill him? In your opinion, are crimes of passion more excusable than premeditated crimes?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Good storytelling

    In 1963 at the Pisgah Methodist Church, thirteen years old Layla Jay week after week disappoints her grandma by not accepting Brother Thompson¿s offer of salvation. Grandma fears that her only grandchild will follow the sinning examples of her husband and her daughter. However when Jehu Albright comes to the church Layla Jay decides to impress this teenage Steve McQueen hunk of a boy by accepting Brother Thompson¿s prayers................. However God answers in mysertious ways as she sees Jehu with another ¿woman¿, her drunken mother marries Brother Wallace Ebert and is in a car accident, and grandma dies. When Ebert starts with twitching her nose and leering at her, but soon tries to rape Layla Jay, her mom intercedes with a 7-Up bottle. Life will never be the same in this household................... HOT FUDGE SUNDAE BLUES is more than a historical perceptive glimpse of the 1960s in small town Mississippi although that provides the background, the tale is more a deep family drama that looks closely at love between extended kin in spite of flaws, and deception and dishonesty to hide these defects from loved ones. What makes a loving relationship is not just shared gene pool, but the ability to forgive not necessarily to forget even the biggest transgressions. Bev Marshall provides a powerful perspective of the good, the bad, and the ugly of human interactivity............ Harriet Klausner

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    Posted March 8, 2011

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