The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Their friendship began in the sixties, at an Indiana all-you-can-eat where black teenagers filled their spare time and their bellies. Over the decades, the three women who called themselves "The Supremes" actually became closer, each of them sharing their stories and those of their extended families. Thanks to Edward Kelsey Moore's March release debut novel, you will never be able to forget Odette, Clarice, and Barbara Jean; nor will you want to. And don't forget: The Spark, Kristine Barnett's touching memoir of her autistic son, described in Biography on page XXX.

Publishers Weekly
The indefatigable trio of Barbara Jean, Clarice, and Odette (known as "The Supremes" since high school) churns the small community of Plainview, Indiana into a Southern-fried tailspin this debut from Moore, a professional cellist. Each of the central characters brings unique challenges to the tables at Earl’s diner: Odette battles cancer while her pothead mother communicates with famous ghosts; Clarice tries to salvage a crumbling marriage with her cheating husband; and beautiful Barbara Jean, who married for money, drinks to forget a youthful affair and her dead son. In a booth at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat, a short walk from Calvary Baptist Church, these women lay bare their passions, shortfalls, and dramas. Clarice’s cancer treatment brings them together in melancholy, but it isn’t long before secrets are revealed and the scramble to catch up on lost time begins. Despite meandering points-of-view and a surplus of exposition, Moore is a demonstrative storyteller and credits youthful eavesdropping for inspiring this multifaceted novel. Comparisons to The Help and Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe are inevitable, but Moore’s take on this rowdy troupe of outspoken, lovable women has its own distinctive pluck. Barney Karpfinger, the Karpfinger Agency. (Mar.)
Library Journal
In the mid-Sixties, three black teenage friends—Odette, Clarice, and Barbara Jean—start meeting at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat, the first black-owned business in Plainview, IN. Watched over by Earl, they keep meeting there for 40 years. Comparisons to The Help, Waiting To Exhale, and Fried Green Tomatoes; a big tour, a reading group guide, and multiple foreign rights sales recommend this book further.
Kirkus Reviews
Well, not Florence, Mary and Diana, but rather three close friends from Plainview, Ind., who, from their adolescence to their maturity, meet to gossip and consolidate their friendship at a local eatery. Odette, Clarice and Barbara Jean have been inseparable since the late 1960s, when they met in high school. Although Barbara Jean was at first an outsider, she quickly bonded with the other two, and they began calling themselves--and being called by others--the Supremes. The novel opens some 40 years after their salad days, when Odette hears of the death of Big Earl, founder of the eponymous black-owned-and-operated restaurant. (We also find out that this news has been conveyed to Odette by her mother, who's been dead for six years.) Through both Odette's narrative and a more neutral third-person perspective, we learn of the trio's personal problems and the rise and fall of their relationships. Odette, for example, is married to the patient and long-suffering James, and recently, she's discovered she has cancer. Clarice has long been married to Richmond, a charming cad who's serially and terminally unfaithful--and she needs to decide whether to leave him or not. And Barbara Jean, who married her husband, 42-year-old Lester, the day after she graduated from high school, is now dealing with his death and confronting the alcoholism that struck unforgivingly with the earlier death of her young son. Throughout the Supremes' intertwined stories is one constant--meeting and eating at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat, now run by his son Little Earl, a place where relationships are forged, scandals are aired and copious amounts of chicken are consumed. A novel of strong women, evocative memories and deep friendship.
From the Publisher
“Hilarious, heartwarming and poignant. . . . A rich and complicated yarn.” —The Chicago Tribune 

“Moore shows a seasoned ease with his funny, damaged subjects. . . . You’ll be casting the movie by the second chapter.” —Entertainment Weekly 

“Moore has conjured up the story of an entire community and, at its sparkling center, a trio of memorable heroines.” —Julia Glass, author of Three Junes
 
“Comparisons to The Help and Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe are inevitable, but Moore’s take on this rowdy troupe of outspoken, lovable women has its own distinctive pluck.” —Publishers Weekly

“Funny and tenderhearted. . . . The most remarkable quality of The Supremes is love—the author’s love for his characters, even the most flawed, shines from every page.” —Shelf Awareness

“Edward Kelsey Moore knows how to write a terrific, complex, believable, and always intriguing story.” —The New York Journal of Books

“Edward Kelsey Moore has written a novel jam-packed with warmth, honesty, wit, travail, and just enough madcap humor to keep us giddily off-balance. . . . The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat is that rare and happy find: a book that delivers not only good story, but good company.” —Leah Hager Cohen, author of The Grief of Others
 
“A gripping novel that weaves together the lives of three remarkable women, and does so with flair, wit, and tremendous heart.” —Carolina De Robertis, author of Perla

“The author uses warmhearted humor and salty language to bring to life a tight-knit African-American community. . . . [Has] salt-of-the-earth characters like fearless Odette, motherless Barbara Jean, and sharp-tongued Clarice, along with an event-filled plot that readers will laugh and cry over.” —Library Journal

“A novel of strong women, evocative memories and deep friendship.” —Kirkus Reviews

“I am always a little suspicious of a male writer speaking for female characters, but Moore inhabits and enlarges the experience he creates so delightfully. A real triumph for a brilliant new novelist.” —Suzanne Levine, author of How We Love Now: Women Talk About Intimacy after Fifty

“Edward Kelsey Moore’s The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat had me nodding in recognition and laughing out loud when I wasn’t crying. His delightful voice really rings true, bringing the unforgettable Odette, Clarice and Barbara Jean to vivid life on every page.—Connie Briscoe, author of Money Can’t Buy Me Love
 
The Supremes at Earl’s-All-You-Can-Eat is a scrumptious delight! I can’t wait for my old friends to get to know my new friends: Odette, Barbara Jean, and Clarice (not to mention Odette’s pot-smoking mama and her friend Mrs. Roosevelt!).” —Carleen Brice, author of Orange Mint and Honey and Children of the Waters

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307959928
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/12/2013
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 260,975
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Interviews & Essays

A Conversation with Edward Kelsey Moore, Author of The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat

From cellist to debut novelist—it's not a usual life journey. Tell us, what inspired you to take a break from playing the cello to write The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat?

Actually, I never took a break from cello playing. I wrote most of the book while I was playing with the Joffrey Ballet Orchestra. I spent the intermissions and the hours between matinees and evening performances writing the novel longhand in a corner of the musicians' lounge. The atmosphere was hectic sometimes, but I drew a lot of inspiration from being surrounded by talented people doing jobs they loved. I still play as often as I can.

This is the story of three girlfriends who have grown up together, and who take time every Sunday to gather in their local diner to catch up. As we read about Clarice, Odette, and Barbara Jean, we can't help but feel that we're right there at their table in the diner. How did you develop such a keen ear for women's conversation?

If the dialogue feels true, it's because I had the good fortune of growing up around women who were great talkers. I heard fantastic storytellers chatting, gossiping, and teasing each other for hundreds of hours before I was a teenager. So when the idea for The Supremes came to me, the voices of my aunts and cousins came along with it. The Supremes speak with the rhythm and spirit of the conversations I remember from childhood. Believe me, once you've seen grown women fall to the floor laughing while listening to my great-aunt Oleytha gleefully re-enact a funeral that failed to meet her high standards, you don't forget it.

Did the trio of main characters come to you as a group, or did one originate in your imagination first?

The three women came to me together. I first imagined the trio in the diner at a moment that later became a scene near the end of the novel. Then I wondered how each of them got there. How long had they known each other? Were they married? Were they happy? Were they healthy? What things had they forgiven each other for?

The diner, Earl's All-You-Can-Eat, is the first black-owned restaurant in Plainview, Indiana. How important was it to you to set much of the novel in such a historic community institution?

The history of the All-You-Can-Eat as the first black-owned business in downtown Plainview was one of the first things I wrote. Characters fall in love, get their hearts broken, celebrate, and grieve there. The Supremes and their families head to the diner from their places of worship. I wanted the All-You-Can-Eat to have enough significance of its own to support the weight of the emotions the characters bring inside its doors.

While the Supremes are the core of this story, there are several characters around them who color the novel as well, including their husbands, their family members—and even ghosts. How did you decide to structure the story, especially regarding the occasional appearance of ghosts?

When you have a long, intimate friendship with someone, the past you share is as much a part of your interactions as the present, whether you want it to be or not. When characters enter the diner in 2005, they bring 1968 and 1977 with them. The structure of the novel and the presence of the ghosts grew out of that. Because of the effect they continued to have on the lives of the other characters, it seemed natural for Big Earl and Dora to visit, even if they happened to be dead.

Do you have a favorite Supreme?

Yes, but I'm not saying which one.

Music recurs throughout the novel, whether in the background at the diner, at social events in Plainview, or in Clarice's sterling piano skills. As a musician yourself, do you listen to music while writing?

I listen to music when I write, but never classical music. Classical music demands far too much of my attention for me to use it as background—an occupational hazard, I suppose. I usually listen to folk music while I write. I love folk, but, unlike classical, I can still focus on writing while I listen to it.
Who have you discovered lately?

I couldn't put down Ayana Mathis's THE TWELVE TRIBES OF HATTIE [A Spring '13 Discover pick. -Ed.] and I loved Kevin Wilson's THE FAMILY FANG [A Fall '11 Discover pick.— Ed.]. I've recommended those two books to more friends than any others over the past year. I'm excited to see what both of these authors come up with next.

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Reading Group Guide

1. “The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat is rooted in the fond memories I have of a childhood spent eavesdropping on the women of my family as they talked at family gatherings. Even when I was too young to fully understand the often very adult subject matter of their conversations, I was struck by how quickly the topics veered from heartbreakingly tragic to wildly hilarious. . . . My intention in writing The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat was to celebrate the joy of true friendship and to invite readers to remember the smart, funny and strong women in their lives.” —Edward Kelsey Moore

Do you think the author has accomplished what he set out to do? Does he, a man, convey the feelings of women accurately and convincingly? In what ways is he especially knowing about women’s feelings?

2. Odette was born in a sycamore tree. Barbara Jean was born on the wrong side of the tracks. Clarice was the first black baby to be born in an all-white hospital. How do the circumstances of each woman’s birth shape her choices as adult? Their interactions with one another? Their relationships with their husbands?

3. When things get tough for the Supremes, they often see the funny side of the worst moments. Moore has a lot of fun with cousin Veronica and her donut-eating daughter. In what other instances do the Supremes use humor to help them survive?

4. Odette, Clarice, and Barbara Jean are best friends, but they’re quite different. What is a defining moment in each of their lives?

5. Commenting on “the tender considerations that came with being a member of the Supremes,” Odette says: “We overlooked each other’s flaws and treated each other well, even when we didn’t deserve it” (p. 37). What other qualities make the friendship among the three women so extraordinary? In what ways do they help one another?

6. The chapters alternate between Odette’s voice and an omniscient third-person narrator. What is the effect of this in storytelling? Why does Moore choose Odette as a narrator rather than Clarice or Barbara Jean?

7. Ghosts appear throughout the novel. What does Odette’s mother’s voice add to the story? What kind of personality comes through? In what ways does she represent a voice of wisdom, and can this be helpful or aggravating to Odette?

8. One of Dora Jackson’s beliefs is that “what we call miracles is just what’s supposed to happen. We either go with it or stand in its way” (p.296). What seemingly miraculous events occur in the novel, and why do some characters choose to “go with it” and others “stand in [their] way”?

9. Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat is the first black-owned restaurant in Plainview, Indiana. What role does place play in the novel, and how does the diner shape the lives of the main characters?

10. The Supremes grew up in tumultuous times. How was each one of them affected by the major social changes for African Americans, as well as for women, that occurred over the course of their lives?

11. How are the men who love the Supremes—James, Richmond, Lester, and Chick—each a reflection of the woman he loves? And what does each husband give to the woman in his life that she treasures, despite his failings?

12. Why does Clarice decide not to move back in with Richmond, even after he feels they’ve patched things up? What other changes do you see in Clarice after her separation from her husband, specifically in her relationship with music and religion?  Do you think she will follow her dream as a musician?

13. Do you think that after a life of hard knocks, Barbara Jean will finally find happiness with Chick? Or is she destined for more tough times ahead?

14. Whether alive or dead (or a ghost), the mothers of the Supremes play a major role in their daughters’ lives. As the Supremes grow older, how do their mothers continue to exert an influence on their adult lives? Who is hurt most by it? Who is helped by it? Who is most like her mother as she gets older?

15. Odette, Clarice, and Barbara Jean each attend three very different churches. In what ways did growing up in these particular churches help to shape them into women they ultimately became?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 125 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 125 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2013

    The supremes of LIFE!

    Wow. That's al I can say. It's an amazing book.

    6 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2013

    What an outstanding find! I highly, highly recommend it.

    The title alone was enough to lure me in but once I got started I was completely hooked. I laughed, I cried, I got mad and then got happy. What a ride. Thanks, Mr. Moore for my new favorite book.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 24, 2013

    It made me laugh out loud. It made me smile. It made cry. It mad

    It made me laugh out loud. It made me smile. It made cry. It made me want to hug some, and to slap others silly. In other words, it is a wonderful book, beautifully written, with characters you will love or hate (and even a few you don't really care about one way or the other). But there's no question this book will stay with me for a long time.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 22, 2013

    As a voracious reader for 6+ decades I have seldom read a book w

    As a voracious reader for 6+ decades I have seldom read a book where I felt more like I wasn't reading but  listening to a conversation. 
    It pulled at the gamut of my emotions! Giving books is a passion of mine  and I will be buying so many copies it just might propel
     this to the best seller list   where I believe it belongs!  


     

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 20, 2013

    After waiting for a really good read this year -- this is it!!

    After waiting for a really good read this year -- this is it!! Where have you been Edward Kelsey Moore? Keep writing like this and i'll keep looking for your books. The characters were so easy to love and it takes you into a different time. I LOVED this book. I never re-read books, but this one will definitely get a second pass. You will be sorry if you don't get to read this one.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 18, 2013

    What a wonderful time I had reading this wonderful, and most col

    What a wonderful time I had reading this wonderful, and most colorful, tapestry of life...real life that you can identify with.  Each character is lovingly drawn out to perfection.  You almost feel that you can reach out and touch them.   I'm with others in hoping there are more books from this very talented author.  He can visually draw images with his words...not something that every author can do.  I was left with feeling I had made a whole lot of new friends and ready to jump in the car to find Plainview.  Whenever I now hear a song by the Supremes I'll think of this book.  Well done Mr. Moore, well done!  

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2013

    A must read

    This book was great. It dealt with some serious issues but added just enough comic relief to keep you reading. Id love to read more about these characters. I hope there is a sequel.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2013

    HIghly recommended. A must read.

    One of the best books i've ever read. Did not want it to end. It's one
    i'll read over again and again.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2013

    This book was wonderful. Even the insanity made sense and added

    This book was wonderful. Even the insanity made sense and added a hysterical sense of fun to the book. I loved it. Hoping the author continues to write and releases a new book soon!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2013

    Excellent Read

    Edward Kelsey Moore has written a wonderful book. He has given such life to the All you can eat...you and feel like you are sitting at the window table. You will love the supremes. Do not hesitate. Get this book and tell your friends. It will make you laugh out loud and it will make you cry.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2013

    I usually don't do reviews, but I had to  for this book. It left

    I usually don't do reviews, but I had to  for this book. It left me wanting more from this author.  Buy it ! It is worth every penny.  You will come away with new friends. 

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2013

    Effortless reading, funny and heartwarming.  Great book!

    Effortless reading, funny and heartwarming.  Great book!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2013

    Really Enjoyed it!!

    Had a fun, interesting story line. Easy read, but really kept my interest. Have suggested it to many of my friends

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 4, 2013

    Great Book

    This is a great book about friendship and relationships with just a little quirkiness to make you smile.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2013

    highly recommended

    I was pleasantly surprised to discover the depth of characters who regularly enjoy their meals at the All You Can Eat. Many people never experience such long time friendships. For those of us who have found such lasting relationships, it is interesting to compare how the characters in the book stand up to real people. This book is very funny and also surprisingly poignant.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 28, 2013

    Great Book

    This book was wonderful.......if you love Southern fiction with humor and great characters then this book is for you.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 28, 2013

    Our book club picked this book and we all loved, loved, loved it

    Our book club picked this book and we all loved, loved, loved it. It amazed us that Mr. Moore, being a man, was so able to tap into the mindset and emotions of women. It was beautifully written, sad, and funny. Hated to have it come to an end but knowing that Odette, Clarice, and Barbara Jean had each other to be there for each other gave me comfort. Highly recommend to any women that has best girlfriends.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2013

    Lovely story of three friends. I couldn't put it down.

    Lovely story of three friends. I couldn't put it down.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2013

    Unique story of BFFs!

    Moore has written a unique story of best friends growing together. Centered around the neighborhood buffet restaurant as a Sunday tradition, the ups and downs of life of three BFFs are experienced.

    The author writes in the first person a key character Odette's story. However he uses the narrative style to weave the story of the two other BFFs Clarice and Barbara Jean, all three known as the "Supremes."

    This is a wonderful and interesting story with tinges of ghosts to provide drama. At the same time a strong link of friends who become like family is described.

    Highly recommended.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2013

    Loved this book. Feels like the characters are

    Old friends, thanks to the author's ability to make them seem so. I will miss them.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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