Southern gothic and soap-opera hype collide exuberantly in West's vivid if hokey third novel (She Flew the Coop, 1994, etc.): a tale of three sisters and their plucky Grandma fighting to dispel a family curse in a small Tennessee town.
When Jo-Nell, the youngest of the three McBroom sisters, is near death as the result of a train accident, the family thinks it's just another manifestation of the curse that has dogged them for three generations. Originally from Texas, most of the McBrooms now live in Tallulah, Tennessee, where everybody knows everybody else's business. Freddie, the middle sister, left Tallulah and headed for California after being expelled from medical school; now, she interrupts a whale-watching visit to Baja, Mexico, with fellow scientist-husband Sam to fly to Jo-Nell's bedside. Grandma Minerva, meanwhile, fears that the old family curse has been revived. Eleanor, the eldest, is so obsessed with crime that she cannot go out alone, and picks up widows from the Senior Citizen Center before she drives to the store. As the four women alternate recollections of the past with accounts of what happens when they're all together again, the plot moves at a hyperventilating pace. Minerva recalls her Texas childhood, her marriage, the tragic deaths of two of her children, the move to Tallulah, wheresuch is the power of the cursehusband Amos dies and daughter Ruth marries Freddie McBroom, is widowed, marries again only to be abandoned, then commits suicide. Jo-Nell, regarded locally as a slut, has also been unlucky in love; and Freddie finds herself still attracted to her own first love, Jackson, a pediatrician with a similarly checkered family history. When Minerva dies, the sisters, having finally faced the past, are ready to move on.
Colorful, larger-than-life characters strut and stew with zest across an equally colorful terrainin a tale that grips in spite of itself.