Secondhand Smoke

Secondhand Smoke

5.0 1
by Patty Friedmann
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

She's nasty, she's prejudiced, and she's finally killed her husband (or at least, that's what her kids believe). She may be the most obnoxious woman in all of New Orleans. But by the end of this remarkable novel, readers will also find Jerusha Bailey infuriatingly lovable-a hilarious antiheroine who "takes life's hardest punches and survives" (Larry Baker, author of

Overview

She's nasty, she's prejudiced, and she's finally killed her husband (or at least, that's what her kids believe). She may be the most obnoxious woman in all of New Orleans. But by the end of this remarkable novel, readers will also find Jerusha Bailey infuriatingly lovable-a hilarious antiheroine who "takes life's hardest punches and survives" (Larry Baker, author of The Flamingo Rising).

Author Biography: Patty Friedmann is the author of three previous novels, Odds, Eleanor Rushing, and The Exact Image of Mother.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publishers Weekly
The chronic discontent and over-the-top dysfunction of a Southern working-class family are at the heart of this dark comedy. Wilson Bailey has a Ph.D. in organic evolution but he is helpless in the face of his wife's infidelity and his father's cancer. His estranged sister, Zib, is a nihilistic assistant manager at Winn-Dixie, where she is constantly rebuffing the advances of her sleazy boss. Their mother, Ru, is a chain-smoking racist prone to bouts of physical and verbal violence. Both siblings have forged independent lives away from their native New Orleans, but their father's death brings them back together for another round of domestic insanity. Friedmann (Eleanor Rushing; Odds) careens among the viewpoints of Ru, Wilson and Zib; their narratives and the story as a whole are as humorous as they are sad. Zib resents her brother's intelligence and has spent her life pretending to be stupid, compensating by having reckless one-night stands; Wilson was so traumatized by his mother's bullying that he can't even go to the bathroom without thinking of her; and the irrepressible Ru is so ferocious and misguided in her opinions that she's downright enthralling. When she accidentally burns down her house, she begins living on the streets, where she meets Murray, a black homeless woman who challenges her racist beliefs. Friedmann's characters occasionally seem like caricatures, and the different narrators create an erratic tone overall, but the outrageous developments and swift pace make this novel hard to resist. 5-city author tour. (Sept.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal - Library Journal
A Confederacy of Dunces meets The Corrections in Friedmann's (Eleanor Rushing) warm and wacky tale of family dysfunction and redemption, set mostly in New Orleans. At its center is the indomitable Jerusha ("Ru") Bailey. Exposed for many years to the smoking and venom that spew from her mouth, Ru's husband finally dies, and she must drive to Arlington with his ashes for a military burial. There she meets up with her two grown children, who still bear the scars of a childhood spent with their mother. Son Wilson is a college professor living outside Chicago and barely surviving in his second marriage. Daughter Zib, trying to live as far away from her mother as possible, has managed to escape only as far as Florida, where she toils as an assistant manager at a grocery store, fending off unwanted advances from her boss. Isolated and alone, Ru develops an unlikely friendship with a ten-year-old boy in her neighborhood who is struggling to survive his own incompetent mother. Both funny and sad, this novel deserves the wild popularity it is sure to achieve.-Ann H. Fisher, Radford P.L., VA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
With a bold beginning and a wet fizzle at the end, Friedmann's frustrating fourth (after Odds, 2000, etc.) is a tragiccomic jumble of frayed family nerves as a 70-year-old woman deals with the death of her husband and the loss of her house, while her kids try to decide how much they want to help. As the story opens, Jerusha's cancer-ridden mate is dying at home in New Orleans, and the response of their two children is classic: Wilson the professor flies down immediately from Chicago, helping out as best he can while knowing that his wife resents him for leaving her alone with the kids; Zib the Winn-Dixie assistant manager refuses to even acknowledge her father is sick until he's dead. While Wilson goes home to resume his life, Zib falls apart. Jerusha, after burying her husband at Arlington National Cemetery and being an unwilling partner to Zib's antics (she borrows Mom's car to get laid by a stranger she tails on the Beltway), returns home only to inadvertently blow it up after one of her ritual altercations with her slut of a neighbor. Having no house insurance, no money, and being too proud to call for help, she takes to the streets with her neighbor's fat but precocious ten-year-old son, Dustin. The dark comedy lacing the plot to this point leaches away as Wilson and Zib make muddled efforts to rescue her: Zib goes on a bender with Dustin's mom, her childhood friend, who winds up in a terminal hepatic coma, while Wilson, tipped off about Jerusha's whereabouts, finds her sleeping in the bushes next to the city library and brings her to Chicago, to deal with his Jewish wife and in-laws and the news that he's become a Jew himself. Fortunately, she's able to take her Chihuahua and beatit back to New Orleans. All's well that ends well, maybe, but the route this tale takes to get there has some distinctly unpleasant turns.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781582432175
Publisher:
Counterpoint Press
Publication date:
09/28/2002
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
5.26(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.88(d)

Meet the Author

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Secondhand Smoke 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Second Hand Smoke is a quirky, funny, poignant and wonderful book that captures meanness and pathos. It is entertaining and literary. There are scenes in this book that make you want to call up a friend and read them. It is just fabulous.