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Mad Girls In Love: A Novel

Mad Girls In Love: A Novel

3.5 8
by Michael Lee West

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Michael Lee West's indomitable G.R.I.T.S. (Girls Raised in the South) are back -- enduring rough times with all the grace and outrageous flair expected of true Southern heroines.

Bitsy Wentworth -- fleeing yet another relationship nightmare in a “borrowed” red Corvette, with her baby daughter and a recently acquired “demon child” --


Michael Lee West's indomitable G.R.I.T.S. (Girls Raised in the South) are back -- enduring rough times with all the grace and outrageous flair expected of true Southern heroines.

Bitsy Wentworth -- fleeing yet another relationship nightmare in a “borrowed” red Corvette, with her baby daughter and a recently acquired “demon child” -- has an APB out on her for attempted murder (she broke her ex-husband's nose with a frozen slab of ribs that she purchased at the Piggly Wiggly). Her mama, Dorothy, is writing letters to First Ladies from inside the Central State Asylum, while Aunt Clancy Jane has completed her inevitable progression from hippie to local Crazy Cat Lady. Three generations of unforgettable Crystal Falls, Tennessee, women -- and the men they attract, enrage, and confound -- are courageously plowing through tumultuous lives of compound disaster . . . and hoping the chaos the next wrong step leads to won't be insurmountable.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
With young Bitsy Wentworth's nose-shattering blow to her philandering husband Claude's handsome face (motive: self-defense; weapon: frozen rack of baby back ribs), West launches this warm but overloaded chronicle of three generations of Southern female eccentricity and spunk. It's August 1972, and Claude is out cold, so Bitsy flees Crystal Falls, Tenn., with their baby, Jennifer, a move that will lose her custody of (though not contact with) her daughter while setting in motion her evolution from girl-wife to worldly interior decorator 20 years later. This follow-up to West's debut, Crazy Ladies, reunites readers with familiar characters, including Bitsy's mother, Dorothy McDougal-who from a Nashville mental institution wages a letter-writing campaign to Pat Nixon on Bitsy's behalf-and Dorothy's sister, Clancy Jane, a hippie cafe owner. Despite well-wrought moments of reconciliation between estranged women throughout (Jennifer's ultimate gesture of forgiveness for Bitsy is especially understated and touching), the novel bogs down in endless female feuding and repetitive male faithlessness (i.e., Claude; Bitsy's second husband, Louie; and Jennifer's almost-husband Pierre). Quirky minor characters and subplots overcrowd this 500-plus page novel, but when West focuses on the complexities of familial or romantic relationships, the novel is at its most heartfelt. (July) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In this sequel to Crazy Ladies, it's a few weeks later in 1972, and we're back with Dorothy, Clancy Jane, Bitsy, Violet, and Jennifer. A dramatic opening episode separates Bitsy from her baby daughter, Jennifer, and the novel follows this Tennessee family as they laugh and cry, love and lose for 22 years. Although not without its moments, the story lacks the punch of its predecessor and seems to struggle for its desired audience. (Scattered strong language may also affect readership.) Why do we know so little of Bitsy's ten years in London, and why does Violet just drift out of the novel? A shorter, tighter structure might have provided the focus this lacks. Unlike many Southern novels, there's no strong sense of place, although West tries to convey a feel for the times. But even Dorothy's unanswered letters to First Ladies can't energize this. Purchase only where West's several books enjoy a steady following. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 3/15/05.]-Rebecca Kelm, Northern Kentucky Univ. Lib., Highland Heights Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Sequel to the much darker Crazy Ladies (1990), West's fourth is a marathon romp through Southern froth. After leaping from the roof of husband Albert's dime-store, Dorothy Hamilton McDougal weathers confinement in an asylum and electroshock by corresponding with First Ladies. Daughter Bitsy clobbers husband Claude with a package of frozen baby backribs (he tried to drown her in a slow-draining sink), then flees to the Gulf Coast with baby Jennifer. Dorothy's sister, Clancy Jane, holds down the ancestral abode at 214 Dixie in Crystal Falls, Tenn. A former hippie, Clancy is married to physician Byron. Next door in Dorothy's brick house, son Mack, a Vietnam vet and amputee, lives in redneck bliss with Earlene. From 1972 to 1994, the Hamilton/MacDougal women strive in vain to escape their collective destiny: bumbling and/or skirt-chasing men. Parental favoritism and sibling distrust, traceable to redoubtable ancestor Miss Gussie, continue. Robbed of custody by Claude's snooty family, Bitsy nevertheless becomes an off-and-on babysitter for Jennifer. Dorothy returns from the funny farm with shocked-white hair and eyebrows singed bare. Albert has divorced her and married a cashier from the store. Clancy starts a gourmet cafe, then moves to a remote mountain house. She replaces Byron, driven off by her Buddhist scorched-earth school of interior decor, with proliferating cats. Along the way, her daughter, Violet, becomes a psychiatrist and enjoys the story's only stable marriage. After an aborted engagement to a dentist, whose flagrantly awful family mires him forever, Bitsy acquires polish as the wife of New Orleans star cardiologist Louie. But his incorrigible yen for nubile nurses eventuallycompels her to flee to London, where she finally finds a trustworthy male. A wedding scene, in which Jennifer narrowly misses succumbing to the Wentworth syndrome of enabling ne'er-do-well husbands, brings the bloodlines and plotlines together in cliched celebration of family craziness. At 500-plus pages, more panorama then drama.
Diana Gabaldon
"Michael Lee West writes like the Morman Tabernacle Choir sings—a thousand voices, all different, all together."

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
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Girls Raised in the South
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Mad Girls In Love

By Michael Lee West

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2005 Michael Lee West
All right reserved.

ISBN: 006018406X


To-Do List
October 17, 1972

  1. Get out of bed.
  2. Or stay in bed and write down my side of the story.
  3. Find an inexpensive (but smart!) lawyer.
  4. Buy Summer Blonde to touch up my roots.

Notorious. That's what the Times-Picayune called me. And the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote, "Wicked Bitsy Wentworth looks like a blond Barbie -- shapely on the exterior, but underneath the plastic is the razorsharp brain of a teenaged criminal."

My name is Lillian Beatrice McDougal Wentworth -- Bitsy for short -- and this is my side of the story: It began two months ago on a hot afternoon in August. The day started out normal. First, I washed my baby's hair in the kitchen sink. Jennifer has quite a lot of hair for an eightmonth-old, so it took a while. I wrapped her in a towel and we danced around the room. From the top of the refrigerator, the radio was playing Strauss's "On the Beautiful Blue Danube." Normally I would be listening to Neil Diamond, but ever since Claude and I had renewed our marriage vows -- six weeks ago, to be exact -- I was determined to improve myself. After all, Claude was a Wentworth, and his people have been cultured for the last hundred years. Which shouldn't be confused with buttermilk or bacterial cultures; I'm talking about sophistication. I'd tried to sound stylish by memorizing words from the dictionary, but sometimes I mispronounced the words, and Claude's mother, Miss Betty, would call me down. But I could stand to listen to classical music, as long as I didn't have to say the composers' names.

The baby stirred in my arms, sending up sweet gusts of baby shampoo, and we waltzed to the other side of the kitchen, stepping through puddles of sunlight, which poured through the long windows. Jennifer laughed. It came from her belly and sounded a little like Phyllis Diller, but in a cute sort of way. After I fluffed the baby's hair and dressed her in a pink sunsuit, I carried her into the living room. I picked up a blanket and was just starting to play peek-a-boo, when I happened to glance at the clock. It was nearly three P.M., and Claude liked his supper on the table by five sharp. I put the baby in the playpen, hurried into the kitchen, and flung open the freezer door. All I could find was an enormous package of ribs. Hoping they'd defrost faster, I shoved the rubber stopper into the sink drain and turned on the water, then I tossed in the package. Next, I changed the radio station to one that played love songs. The Fifth Dimension was singing "One Less Bell to Answer," and I asked myself why men leave and what did fried eggs have to do with it?

From the living room, I could hear Jennifer banging on her toy xylophone -- she sounded extra-talented to me -- and then I grabbed the charcoal bag and a tin of lighter fluid. I stepped outside and hunkered next to the hibachi. It was too soon to light the briquettes, but I thought I'd get them ready. As I piled them into the bottom of the hibachi, I tried to remember my mother's recipe for barbecue sauce -- did it call for honey or brown sugar? I couldn't ask because she was in a psychiatric hospital getting cured of paranoia and in no condition to exchange recipes.

The kitchen phone rang and I hurried back inside, skidding across the linoleum, my polka-dot dress swishing around my legs. I just love anything with polka dots, although gingham is awfully sweet, too. I grabbed the receiver and answered in my breathless Julie Christie voice, the one Claude liked. I'd copied it from Dr. Zhivago.

"Is Claude there?" It was a woman. I didn't recognize her voice, but it reminded me of sticky hot summer nights on my grandmother's old screened porch, mosquitoes humming in the damp air.

"No, but I'm expecting him any minute." I waved my hand, as if shooing a bug.

"I'm sure you are. Never mind, I'll catch up with him later." The woman laughed and hung up. I frowned, trying to place the voice. It hummed in my ear in dizzy circles. I wanted to slap it and draw blood. But maybe the caller was one of Claude's customers. He was a loan officer at Citizen's Bank where his daddy, Claude Wentworth III, was the president. People were always wanting to borrow money.

From the radio, Petula Clark began singing "My Love." I stared at the phone a minute. Then I dialed the bank. My love for Claude was deeper than the deepest ocean, and nothing in the world could ever change that love -- unless he was up to something.

When the receptionist answered, I pinched my nostrils to disguise my voice. "May I speak to Claude Wentworth IV?" I put emphasis on the numeral, so the woman wouldn't put me through to Claude III, my father-in-law.

"I'm sorry," said the receptionist. "He isn't in his office this afternoon. May I take a message?"

"What do you mean, not in his office ?" I cried in my real voice.

"He'll be here tomorrow," said the woman. Then in a more suspicious tone, "Who is this?"

I hung up and walked in a daze to the living room. I sank down into a teal blue plaid chair. I'd bought it at Goodwill, then Claude's mother had her upholsterer recover it in some of her leftover fabric. From this, I had put together a teal-and-white color scheme. Claude said he loved it. But then, he said a lot of things. If he hadn't been to the bank today, then where had he gone? Across the room, Jennifer had abandoned the xylophone and was busily fitting nesting cups together. She looked up and grinned -- the spitting image of the Wentworths, with their high foreheads and curly blond hair. Then she tossed the cups into the air and screeched ...


Excerpted from Mad Girls In Love by Michael Lee West Copyright © 2005 by Michael Lee West. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

Diana Gabaldon
“Michael Lee West writes like the Morman Tabernacle Choir sings—a thousand voices, all different, all together.”

Meet the Author

Michael Lee West is the author of Mad Girls in Love, Crazy Ladies, American Pie, She Flew the Coop, and Consuming Passions. She lives with her husband on a rural farm in Tennessee with three bratty Yorkshire terriers, a Chinese Crested, assorted donkeys, chickens, sheep, and African Pygmy goats. Her faithful dog Zap (above) was the inspiration for a character in the novel.

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Mad Girls in Love 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
just-a-thot More than 1 year ago
For me, I just wanted something better to happen between the mother and daughter, and it wouldn't. It was frustrating to read about what they went through. The book keeps your attention because most of the women are just plain crazy, but I couldn't help wanting to do something, or wish I could say something to Bitsy. Perhaps this is what the author had in mind all along, and for that she did her job well.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When I started reading this book, I found it an enjoyable light read. By the time I got to the part with the numerous letters to Bitsy, I was becoming bored. I feel the book was too drawn out and the ending was too abrubt. --K--
CJ_Stand More than 1 year ago
The charcters in this book were fun to follow. The author wrote in such a way that it made me want to continue to find out what happens next. I can't say it was a can't put down read, but definitly held the attention for fun reading. If you have a disfunctional family and deal with the comedy from their antics you will laugh through this whole book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an outstanding sequel to Crazy Ladies. I finished it over Spring Break last year and found myself wishing it was longer. It picks up right where the first left off and contines its storyline thirty years later 1994. Ms. Gussie may be gone but her daughters and grandaughters rave on! This is the closest thing to finding out how the REAL G.R.I.T.S. live without makin' that journey down the Mason-Dixon.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What is it about Southern women? They continually bemuse and amuse us whether they're 'Steel Magnolias' or a hostess with the mostest from 'Puttin' On The Grits.' These gals are entertaining, endearing, and may even make some of us wish we'd been born South of the Mason-Dixon Line. Michael Lee West continues in the trend of southern comfort reads with a follow-up to her debut novel 'Crazy Ladies.' Not to worry if you didn't read or hear it, you'll have no trouble at all in being brought up to speed in the lives of the G.R.I.T.S. (Girls Raised in the South). With 'Mad Girls In Love' we find 18-year-old wife and mother Bitsy Wentworth (who at that time couldn't name the presidents in order but 'knew the name and manufacturer of every lipstick and eye shadow in Rexall Drugs) wacked her unfaithful husband with a rack of frozen meat. This caused some alteration to his handsome profile and also caused Bitsy to grab their baby, Jennifer, and run from Crystal Falls. Not a good decision as she lost custody of the child. However, that just might have been the catalyst that caused her to grow up, branch out, and eventually become a successful interior decorator. Picking up at the close of her first novel, West now follows the lives of her original outre characters plus a few wacky new ones. What a difference 20 years can make - listen and smile! This audio edition is especially enjoyable as it is performed by the author who obviously knows her way around a microphone as her reading is both polished and professional. - Gail Cooke