Mermaids in the Basement

Mermaids in the Basement

4.1 39
by Michael Lee West
     
 

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Reeling from the loss of her mother, plagued with a bad case of writer's block (and don't even talk about those extra twenty pounds), Renata DeChavannes feels as though everything is just plain wrong. And that was before the tabloids caught her sweetheart, filmmaker Ferg Lauderdale, sharing an intimate squeeze with Hollywood's hottest young tamale.

But the

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Overview

Reeling from the loss of her mother, plagued with a bad case of writer's block (and don't even talk about those extra twenty pounds), Renata DeChavannes feels as though everything is just plain wrong. And that was before the tabloids caught her sweetheart, filmmaker Ferg Lauderdale, sharing an intimate squeeze with Hollywood's hottest young tamale.

But the granddaughter of the formidable Honora DeChavannes possesses more hell than belle in her backbone—and she's about to reclaim it. Heading south to Honora's home on the Gulf Coast, Renata is determined to stop feeling like a wilted gardenia and emerge as the unstoppable kudzu her beloved grandmother proudly proclaimed she would be. But for that to happen Renata's got to face some not-so-genteel ghosts from her past, discover the truth about the mother she desperately misses, and make peace with the first man who abandoned her and broke her heart: her handsome and distant father.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Ripe with Southern charm and sultry atmosphere, West's diverting and funny latest unravels the tangled gossamer web of an eccentric extended Southern family. At the heart of the novel is Renata DeChavannes, who has a pretty full plate: a tabloid ran a story about her longtime film director boyfriend's possible on-set fling with an actress; her mother and step-father died in a plane crash five months ago; her father is about to marry his fourth wife (a squeaky-voiced young thang named Joie); and she's just found a letter written by her mother instructing her to ferret out her mother's "dirty secrets." So Renata heads to her Gulf Coast Alabama hometown, where her indomitable grandmother Honora DeChavannes; steadfast former nanny Gladys Boudreax; and Honora's longtime friend and former actress, Isabella D'Agostina McGeehee, live. The story flies by, loaded with grand parties, sumptuous Southern meals, multiple affairs and harrowing calamities. West's storytelling talent shines when she's following around the fiery belles, though she has trouble getting convincingly into the head of Renata's father, Louie, and the profusion of subplots can feel overwhelming. On the whole, it's a joyride, if a sometimes bumpy one. (Jan.)

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Library Journal

Screenwriter Renata comes from a true Southern family, complete with a formidable grand-dame grandmother. When Renata's actor boyfriend is written up in the tabloids for an alleged affair, she runs away to grandmother's estate in Point Clear, AL. Still mourning her mother's untimely death, Renata is looking for solace and rest. Unfortunately, life gets more dramatic as the days go on. At her father's engagement party, his new fiancée is found unconscious in a pool, and Renata is the prime suspect. She can't seem to contact her boyfriend to get the straight story from him. And she discovers that her parents led secret lives to which she was never privy, until now: Grandmother Honora and pals have decided it's time to let all of the skeletons out of the family closets. West (Crazy Ladies) has a knack for realistic and engaging characters. This charming tale will keep readers wanting to know more about the inhabitants of Point Clear. For all public libraries, particularly where women's fiction is popular. [See Prepub Alert, LJ9/15/07.]
—Rebecca Vnuk

Kirkus Reviews
Southern belles hell-bent on belated truth-telling in West's latest wacky outing (Mad Girls in Love, 2005, etc.). After a six-month saltwater-taffy binge on North Carolina's outer banks, Renata, a screenwriter, is shopping for a cashmere sweater to send to her sweetie, Ferg, a director who's on location in Dublin shooting the "remake" of James Joyce's Ulysses. She spots a tabloid depicting Ferg in a pub in the clutches of "man-eating actress" Esme Vasquez, who plays Molly Bloom. After the shopkeeper inflicts an impromptu mullet on Renata, she flees to Alabama, into the sheltering arms of her paternal grandmother, Honora, who's hosting an engagement party for Louie, Renata's daddy. When, after a few too many flutes of champagne, Renata confronts Louie's fiancee, squeaky-voiced Joie, in Honora's attached garage, Joie rips off Renata's pearls. Later, Joie is found comatose in the garden pond, and a few loose pearls in drops of blood on the garage floor point to Renata as the suspect. Still above suspicion is Honora's friend Isabella, a former Hollywood actress who's inserted Lord knows how many valiums in the chocolate-covered strawberries Joie was last seen gorging on. Isabella thinks it's high time someone told Renata about the secrets harbored by her mother, Shelby, who, long divorced from controlling cardiologist Louie, has recently perished in a plane crash with her longtime second husband, a movie producer. Family retainer Gladys, Isabella and Honora alternate revelations. In 1972, Shelby had an affair with studly hairdresser Kip. Shelby's father was accidentally shot while quail hunting with Kip and Louie. After Shelby almost drowned while cavorting with Kip, she and Louie reached aturbulent truce. Isabella's affair with Louie and her compulsion to lace comestibles with pharmaceuticals caused her husband's not-so-accidental death. More brutal unveilings follow, until Renata achieves a rueful understanding of her father's and lover's motives. Few surprises on the road to rapprochement, but the belles's barbed commentary never fails to entertain.
Booklist
“An engaging tale that skips from glitzy romantic Hollywood to Deep South without missing a beat.”
Redbook Magazine
“Deliciously zany novel of Southern discomfort.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061834264
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
10/13/2009
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
244,836
File size:
605 KB

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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