Loose Lips

Loose Lips

4.1 9
by Rita Mae Brown

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If you crossed Mitford, North Carolina, with Peyton Place, you might come up with Runnymede, Maryland, the most beguiling of Southern towns. In Loose Lips, Rita Mae Brown revisits Runnymede and the beloved characters introduced in Six of One and Bingo, serving up an exuberant portrayal of small-town sins and Southern mores, set against a


If you crossed Mitford, North Carolina, with Peyton Place, you might come up with Runnymede, Maryland, the most beguiling of Southern towns. In Loose Lips, Rita Mae Brown revisits Runnymede and the beloved characters introduced in Six of One and Bingo, serving up an exuberant portrayal of small-town sins and Southern mores, set against a backdrop of homefront life during World War II.

"I'm afraid life is passing me by," Louise told her sister.

"No, it's not," Juts said. "Life can't pass us by. We are life."

In the picturesque town of Runnymede, everyone knows everyone else's business, and the madcap antics of the battling Hunsenmeir sisters, Julia (Juts) and Louise, have kept the whole town agog ever since they were children. Now, in the fateful year of 1941, with America headed for war, the sisters are inching toward forty...and Juts is unwise enough to mention that unspeakable reality to her sister.

The result is a huge brawl that litters Cadwalder's soda fountain with four hundred dollars' worth of broken glass. To pay the debt, the sisters choose a surprisingly new direction. Suddenly they are joint owners of The Curl 'n' Twirl beauty salon, where discriminating ladies meet to be primped, permed, and pampered while dishing the town's latest dirt.

As Juts and Louise become Runnymede's most unlikely new career women, each faces her share of obstacles. Restless Juts can't shake her longing for a baby, while holier-than-thou Louise is fit to be tied over her teenage daughter's headlong rush toward scandal. As usual, the sisters rarely see eye to eye, and there are plenty of opinions to go around. Even the common bond of patriotic duty brings wildly unexpected results when the twosome joins the Civil Air Patrol, watching the night sky for German Stukas. But loose lips can sink even the closest relationships, and Juts and Louise are about to discover that some things are best left unsaid.

Spanning a decade in the lives of Louise, Juts, and their nearest and dearest, including the incomparable Celeste Chalfonte, Loose Lips is an unforgettable tale of love and loss and the way life can always throw you a curveball. By turns poignant and hilarious, it is deepened by Rita Mae Brown's unerring insight into the human heart.

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
Lovers of Six of One and Bingo rejoice: The Hunsenmeir sisters are back! That's right, the squabbling siblings of Runnymede, Maryland, have emerged from a ten year disappearance to entertain us once again with their flashback flashforward lives. This time, the pair are running a beauty salon where many of the most pleasing curls and wrinkles are plot complications, not new do's. Festive and sly.
Sessalee Hensley
Library Journal
They're back! The irrepressible Hunsenmeir sisters of Runnymede, the fictional town straddling the Maryland-Pennsylvania line, are literally in fighting form after a long hiatus. Louise and Julia (Juts), both in their thirties in 1941, squabble at the town soda fountain and cause almost $400 (in 1941 dollars!) in damages in just the opening pages. In the 11 years spanned here, Hansford Hunsenmeir returns years after abandoning his wife and daughters, Louise copes with daughter Mary's first love and daughter Maizie's confusion, childless Juts and husband Chester adopt Nicole, and the sisters' Civil War Patrol duty provides endless town gossip after Louise mistakes a flock of geese for German Stukas and the alarm rouses Chester from his mistress's bed. This is neither prequel nor sequel to either Six of One (LJ 9/1/78), which introduces Runnymede's residents, or its sequel Bingo (LJ 10/15/88) but basically a loving, laugh-provoking expansion of years covered in the former. Time has honed Brown's literary skills but not lessened her love for these characters, and she has a winner here. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 4/15/99.]--Michele Leber, Fairfax Cty. P.L., Arlington, VA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Brown brings back the wacky Hunsenmeir sisters attended by all the good and not-so-good folk of Runnymede (Six of One, 1978; Bingo, 1988), as middle age and war give a new edge to their chronic if overhyped sibling rivalry. Runnymede, straddling the Mason-Dixon line, is one of those fictional towns full of people who gossip and bicker but whose hearts are mostly kind. There are, however, a few exceptions: the unforgiving Josephine Smith, Juts's mother-in-law, and the treacherous Rife brothers—after Pearl Harbor, they try to blame a fire they set on the town's only Japanese-American. When the story opens in April 1941, Louise (Wheezer), devout and prissy, is approaching her 40th birthday and doesn't want to admit it; she's also worried about her adolescent daughter Mary. Now 36, younger sister Juts (Julia), a free-spirited rule-breaker, wants a baby, but the problem may be husband Chessy's infertility. As the years whirl by, the sisters face the return of their long-gone father, Chessy's affair, and Mary's teenage pregnancy. They also add their own colorful contribution to everything from church, where Juts's cat destroys the altar flowers on Easter, to the war effort. On duty one night as CivilAir Patrol volunteers, they sound the siren after seeing geese flying overhead, claiming they saw German Stukas. And when Juts mentions Wheezer's age at Cadwalder's soda fountain, the sisters get into such a fight that they have to open a beauty salon (The Curl 'n' Twirl) to pay for the damage they cause. Chessy and Juts eventually adopt Nicole, the daughter of a young woman who went to Washington to work and became pregnant. By 1950 the two sisters feel a lot older, not much wiser butstill determined to keep fighting—mostly life, yet often each other. Vivid characters and strong women. The frequent one-liners often seem more sitcom than novel material, going nowhere and telling less, but there are still good laughs along the way.

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Random House Publishing Group
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5.22(w) x 8.18(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt

Life will turn you inside out. No matter where you start you'll end up someplace else even if you stay home. The one thing you can count on is that you'll be surprised.

For the Hunsenmeir sisters, life didn't just turn them inside out, it tossed them upside down, then right side up. Perhaps it wasn't life whirling them around like the Whip ride at the fair. They upended each other.

April 7, 1941, shimmered, a light wind sending Louise's tulips swaying. Spring had triumphantly arrived in Runnymede, which straddled the Mason-Dixon line. The residents of this small, beautiful town, built around a square before the Revolutionary War, waxed ecstatic since springtime warmth had arrived early this fateful year. Probably every year is fateful to someone or other, but some years everyone remembers. On April 7, though, Fate seemed far away, shaking up countries across the Atlantic Ocean.

Julia Ellen, "Juts," slammed the door to her sister Louise's house. She pursed her lipstick-coated lips and blew a low note then a higher note, like a towhee bird. Snotty bird-watchers like Orrie Tadia Mojo, Louise's best friend from her schoolgirl days, called it a Rufous-sided towhee. Juts always pronounced it two-ey, since it uttered the note twice.

Hearing no response, Juts whistled again. Finally she yelled, "Wheezer, where the hell are you?" Still no answer.

Juts had celebrated her thirty-sixth birthday on March 6. She'd always possessed megawatts of energy, but as she zoomed through her thirties she accumulated even more energy, the way some people accumulated wrinkles. The only person who could keep up with her was Louise, four years older; since Louise lied shamelessly about her birthday everyone "forgot" her exact age except Juts, who held it in reserve should she need to whack her sister into line. Cora, their mother, remembered also but she was far too sweet to remind her elder daughter, who was having a fit and falling in it over turning forty. This momentous occasion had just occurred on March 25. Even Juts, out of pity, pretended Louise was thirty-nine at the birthday party.

Both sisters roared through life, although they roared in different keys. Juts was definitely a C major while Louise, an E minor, could never resist a melancholy swoon.

Juts stubbed out her Chesterfield in the glass ashtray with the thin silver band around the edge.

"Louise!" she shouted as she opened the back door and stepped out.

"I'm up here," Louise called from the roof.

Julia craned her neck; the sun was in her eyes. "What are you doing up there? Oh, wait, why should I ask? You're singing 'Nearer My God to Thee.'"

"I'll thank you to shut your sacrilegious mouth."

"Yeah, yeah, you walk on water. I came over here to take you to lunch at Cadwalder's but you're such a pill I think I'll go by myself."

"Don't leave me."

"Why not?"

Louise hesitated. She loathed asking her younger sister to help her because she knew she'd have to pay her back somewhere, sometime, and it would be when she least wanted to return a favor.

"Oh." Julia tried to conceal her delight as she spied the white heavy ladder behind the forsythia bushes, a rash of blinding yellow. "Gee, Sis, how awful." She started walking away.

"Julia, Julia, don't you leave me up here!"

"Why not? I can't even crack a joke around you but what it gets turned into a spiritual moment by Runnymede's only living saint. Oh, let me amend that, by the great state of Maryland's only living saint."

"What about Pennsylvania?"

"We don't live in Pennsylvania."

"Half of Runnymede is over the line."

"You mean over the top, don't you?" Julia crossed her arms over her chest.

"You know what I mean." Irritation crept into Louise's well-modulated soprano.

"Pennsylvania is so much bigger than Maryland, kind of like a tarantula compared to a ladybug. I'm sure there are lots of living saints in Pennsylvania, probably in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, but then again—"

Louise cut her off. She knew when Juts was heating up for one of her rambles. "Will you please put the ladder up?"

"No. Mary and Maizie will be home from school in two hours. They can put it up."

Louise's younger daughter, named after Julia Ellen, had been given the nickname Maizie to distinguish her from her aunt.

"Now listen, Juts, this isn't funny. I'm stuck and those noisy kids might not hear me when they get home. Put the ladder up."

"What do I get out of it?"

"Maybe you should ask what you don't get out of it." As Louise edged toward the roofline, little bits of asphalt sparkles skidded out under her heels.

"Bet it's getting hot up there."

"A tad."

"What are you offering me?"

"No more lectures on your smoking or drinking."

"I hardly drink at all," Julia snapped. "I am so sick of you claiming that I drink too much."

"I have yet to see a Saturday night that you don't fill with whiskey sours."

"One night out of seven—it's Saturday night, Louise, and I like to go out with my husband."

"You'd go out whether he was here or not."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means you can't live without male attention and if I were your husband I wouldn't let you out of my sight."

"Well, you're not my husband." Julia dragged out the heavy ladder but didn't prop it against the gutter of the roof. "How come your nose is out of joint, anyway?"





Meet the Author

Rita Mae Brown is the bestselling author of the Sneaky Pie Brown series; the Sister Jane series; A Nose for Justice and Murder Unleashed; Rubyfruit Jungle; In Her Day; and Six of One, as well as several other novels. An Emmy-nominated screenwriter and a poet, Brown lives in Afton, Virginia.

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Loose Lips 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ill try.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
AnneMWA More than 1 year ago
This trilogy is so funny, I love them... Julia (Juts) and her sister Louise have to pay back $400 of damage they created at the local soda fountain during a spat. So they open a salon, the Curl 'n' Twirl (complete with gossip), to earn it. They can't get along for five minutes but, to stay on the right side of their husbands and get out of debt, they have to try. Juts wants a baby and Louise keeps telling her she'll never be a 'real woman' until she has a child of her own, overlooking the fact that her daughters are driving her crazy. In-laws, family and friends alternately help or frustrate but it’s all in fun (more or less.)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BindyMolo More than 1 year ago
If you loved Six of One, and I certainly did/do, I still read at least once a year, then Loose Lips is not for you, you will find major charactors behaving in completely different ways, some seemingly loving charactors having affairs while major story lines eg Rillma Ryans pregnancy and the trip by Wheezie and Chessy, and the dramatic announcment of the murder of Brutus Rife by his sister to Celeste Chalfonte: are changed dramatically.
In short, see it as a completely different book, it is the only way to enjoy Loose Lips ( and it is a good read) but don`t try to connect it to Six of One, the names are the same, but the people are different!
A quick note, the same goes for Bingo...I feel Rita Mae Brown is cashing in on the Hunsenmeir gals but getting it so wrong on all fronts, what is wrong with just letting a good story be a good story, please Rita, no more, let Six of One be....!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found Loose Lips to be fun, light and relaxing, a kind of Sunday afternoon on the sofa in front of the fireplace read. Since I actually know people like the characters and I am from THE SOUTH, I enjoyed it very much.