Tag Archives: novel

Avenue of Mysteries by John Irving – Book

Avenue of Mysteries

Avenue of Mysteries is a Chagall. John Irving has painted a Chagall with words, a Catholic Chagall (not sure how Marc Chagall who was Jewish would feel about that). Of course the Chagall made most famous in the movies is the one with the goat and the wedding couple defying gravity. Irving has geckos, Virgin Marys, “dump” children, a gay couple, lots of Jesuits and some skywalkers in this very Chagall-esque novel. It’s a complicated story line with plenty of whimsy and deep philosophical contemplation.

Juan Diego and Luce live with the “dump” master on the outskirts of Oaxaca, Mexico. Some children survive by pulling things that are worth money from the dump to sell. Juan Diego and his sister have it better than other “dump” kids because they live with Rivera and they have a mom, who although beautiful is a prostitute and, oddly, also a cleaning lady for the Jesuits. Juan Diego shines above the other “dump” children because he is a “dump” reader. He taught himself to read using old Jesuit texts that were sent to the dump to be burned. In addition he knows how to speak English and he can interpret his sister Luce’s mysterious language. Luce is a mind reader, not a fortune teller. She is not as good at knowing the future.

Father Pere takes a special interest in Juan Diego and so Juan Diego and Luce get very mixed up with the Catholic Church, although they are not believers. These two children are obsessed with the Marys – the one the Spanish conquerors brought over and the one discovered at Guadalupe whose likenesses both reside in the nearby church and more.

The Catholic Church is, in fact, at the center of this Irving novel but the relationships people have with the church are anything but simple. Choosing between the rules and what seems like common sense creates a dilemma for many good Catholics.

“Your rules! What do the rules have to do with the way people actually live?” Vargas asked him.”

“Of course the Church was ‘genuine’ in its love of poor people, as Clark always argued – Juan Diego didn’t dispute this. Why wouldn’t the Church love poor people? Juan Diego was in the habit of asking Clark. But what about birth control? What about abortion? It was the ‘social agenda’ of the Catholic Church that made Juan Diego mad. The church’s policies – in opposition to contraception! – not only subjected women to the ‘enslavement of childbirth’ as Juan Diego put it to Clark, ‘the Church’s policies kept the poor poor and made them poorer. Poor people kept reproducing, didn’t they?”

Sounds a bit preachy but it isn’t. You know where the author (and the main character) stand but you are not obligated to stand in the same place as long as you don’t care about the author’s respect. This novel is not as cheerful as Chagall’s painting but it has plenty of symbolism to unravel (everything that happens in the Philippines, for example and those two strange women, Miriam and Dorothy) and it has its lighter moments as well as its profound moments. My unrequited love affair with John Irving continues.

By Nancy Brisson

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The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende – Book

The Japanese Lover

The Japanese Lover is a lovely story but not as complex as Isabel Allende’s usual creations. She likes to mix history with her fiction. She stresses our immigrant roots as Americans and in this book all of the main characters are showing their immigrant roots. (I know that using the word lovely is supposed to be the kiss of death for a novel, but this is Isabel Allende. She is strong. She can take the “L” word.)

Alma, and this is mostly Alma’s story, was sent to her aunt and uncle in the city Allende’s books often center on, San Francisco. She was sent by her Polish parents to her relatives before World War II clamped down on Europe. Her parents were Jewish and were eventually killed in a concentration camp.

Alma is old now. We learn about her life in flashbacks. Her uncle’s family was wealthy – the Belasco’s. Alma was lonely and her girl cousins were not welcoming, but Nathaniel, also a misfit, was good to Alma. The Belasco’s has a Japanese gardener, Takao Fukuda, who had a son, Ichimei, who also befriended Alma. In fact those two had a special bond. They were separated when Ichimei and his family were sent to a Japanese internment camp in the American hinterlands. By the time Ichimei is freed from the camps everything has changed. For one thing, he no longer works for the Belasco’s.

Alma and Ichimei are in love but Alma is not enough of a rebel to give up her wealth, comfort, and social acceptance. There is something quite real about this that I appreciate.

Irina, born in Moldova, works in the senior home where Alma now lives. Irina suffered a terrible but undefined (until later) form of abuse which she keeps a secret. Alma keeps her love for Ichimei a secret. She actually married her cousin Nathaniel, a man who also had secrets to keep. An old friend, Lenny, comes to live at Lark House and renews his friendship with Alma and there are things to learn about him as well.

Irina, who becomes Alma’s assistant, and Alma’s grandson, Seth, are fascinated by Alma and they snoop politely to learn Alma’s secrets before she takes them with her. This story sounds like a schmaltzy tear-jerker but it is not. Allende doesn’t play with our emotions in that way. It is more an artistic, intellectual, and historical rendering of the postwar era in San Francisco as it affected the lives of real people. However Allende’s portrayal of aging – the still vibrant mind and the continuing emotional content of that mind – which Alma presents to us makes her seems so young, a youthfulness that is gradually curtailed by the growing frailty of her body. Allende’s portrayal of aging reads as true as the other choices her characters make in their lives. It also makes us wish we could all live and die wealthy and successful.

You will either love the ending or find it, as I did a bit trite. Allende has always had that certain magical quality that suggested, and almost convinced us, that ghosts are real. Although this is not my favorite Allende novel it is perfect for this stage of my life. Someone else will have to tell you whether you must be old to appreciate this novel, but I don’t think so. Alma is a character worth getting to know. In fact, you probably already know someone very much like her.

By Nancy Brisson

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff – Book

In Fates and Furies, a novel by Lauren Groff, we have a continuation of a couple of recent trends in fiction. First we have a plot that unfolds its secrets a few at a time, doles them out like those pennies my parents used to give me to spend at the candy store. Slowly the sweets in our bag add up, into a person and a life. In the first part of this bipartite book we have the Fates.

“In Greek mythology, the Moirai—often known in English as the Fates—were the white-robed incarnations of destiny. Their number became fixed at three: Clotho (spinner), Lachesis (allotter) and Atropos (unturnable). They controlled the metaphorical thread of life of every mortal from birth to death. “

https://www.citelighter.com/history/history/knowledgecards/the-fates

The Fates brought success and failure although they often seemed to resort to favoritism in their choice of recipients who met with success. Part I centers on Lotto, larger than life and fated for some fine accomplishment from the time he was born. Lancelot Satterwhite’s mom is Antoinette, an ex-mermaid at Weeki Wachee in Florida and his dad was Gawain who made a fortune by bottling spring water. The names of Ms. Groff’s characters certainly play into the whole fate scenario.

Although Lotto’s mother, once widowed, wanted to smother him and keep him for herself, she sent him away after he fell in with a wild crowd and Lotto never saw her again, although she secretly pulled strings in his life as if she were one of the Fates. Lotto is banished from sunny, hot Florida to the strictness and chill of a New England prep school. He attends Vassar, by then a coed school and, fortunately, he does not meet Mathilde until he is ready to graduate. It is love at first sight, there is a quickie marriage for love and lust, and next thing the happy couple knows they are disinherited by the very wealthy widow, Lotto’s mom Antoinette.

What is Lotto’s fate? His marriage to Mathilde seems to be a good one although there is a sort of constant foreboding that all will not be well. I cannot hand out all the secrets. I cannot fill up that candy bag. There is also a dog, a silly fluffy dog, which Lotto names God by accident and who was reminiscent for me of the dog Sorrow in Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving.

However, especially as the novel began, I was struck by the contrast between my expectations for this book and the reality of it. I expected some urbane European pedigrees and an angry couple each recounting his/her side of a marital story. But Lotto’s history, despite his somewhat classical schooling is oh so American giving him a pedigree that is actually a rather crass mix of Disney and Warren Buffet. Lotto is hopelessly unaware of his white male privilege but he is loyal and charismatic and talented. Mathilde seems his complement in every way.

In Part II we get to the Furies. Furies were also from Greek mythology and were thought to be the embodiment of curses and of the ghosts of the murdered. Vengeance comes to mind when the Furies are invoked. This part of Groff’s novel focuses on Mathilde, self-proclaimed orphan, who turns out to have a much darker history than we might have guessed. She goes along with a second trend in recent novels for writing female characters who are nuanced, intelligent, and not necessarily “good” girls as in Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn) and The Girl on a Train (Paula Hawkins), and Hausfrau (Jill Alexander Essbaum), the wife in At the Water’s Edge (Sara Gruen), the daughter in The Paying Guests (Sarah Waters), and the enigmatic secretary in The Other Typist (Suzanne Rindell). These women all have secret qualities that shock us or challenge traditional portrayals of females as beings in need of protection, as perhaps victims. What Mathilde reveals will have you arguing with your own self and then wondering if anything in Fates and Furies really happened at all. I will be thinking about this one and its dichotomies for a while and I really like that in a book, especially one as well-written as this one. Thank you, Lauren Groff.

By Nancy Brisson

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante – Book

This novel does not fit easily into a genre although critics have called it a bildungsroman or coming of age novel, but that genre only fits Book 1 of the Neapolitan Novels and there is much more to even this first novel than that. (Or perhaps it just seems that way because we get more coming of age novels about boys than we do about girls). This book is classified as a fiction book but is written by Elena (the character and probably the author) as a memoir of sorts. The tale is translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein and is written by Elena Ferrante. The story is told in four volumes and this first volume is titled My Brilliant Friend. These novels have appeared with some regularity on recent best seller lists.

Elena and her best friend Lila are born in a small, poor neighborhood near Naples, Italy sometime after World War II. Elena is fascinated by Lila because she is not like anyone else in the neighborhood. She is as poor as any of them, skinny with dark circles under her eyes (although she grows up to be quite thin and beautiful). But Lila is also smart and full of energy and curiosity and she is creative, a born leader who Elena is happy to compete with, emulate, and get in trouble with. In fact it is fairly clear that Elena thinks that she would not have amounted to much without Lila.

The children they know have families who earn tenuous livings in a variety of ways. One family runs a fruit and vegetable truck, another (Lila’s) a shoe repair shop, another family runs a small grocery and still another runs a pastry shop. Elena’s father is a porter. All of the children go to school until the end of elementary school but only a few children go on to middle school. Since Elena and Lila are such good students, who love to read and whose thinking is more sophisticated than that of the other children, teachers befriend them, loan them books, and try to help set them on a track for middle school. Elena’s parents say no at first but are eventually persuaded. Lila’s family will not allow her to go.

These two girls, both bright stars, with Lila the brighter of the two, see that their futures will diverge. What will become of Lila? What will become of their friendship? That is what we find out in the second half of this book and in the other three books.

This story resonates with me on a very personal level. I don’t usually write about parallels with my own life and a novel, although most novels do resonate with our lives at some level. But this story kind of is my life, except lived in Italy. My family was very poor with many children. My older sister and I were both considered smart and creative by our teachers. My sister had a calm, obedient, pleasant demeanor and great social skills. I was more like a sparkler, sending out energy in every direction, bossy and without that social touch my sister had. I followed her everywhere. And like Elena and Lila there was a person on the staff at our school who offered to take us on and make sure that we had some cultural experiences. I went for it, my sister did not. I went to college and so did she, but I went away to a four year college and she stayed home and went to community college. Our lives diverged after that, just as the lives of Elena and Lila did. My sister took a secretarial job and got married. I became a teacher. I will never get to write four volumes about me and my sister as she was killed in a car accident when she was only twenty-nine. There is a sort of parallel here too as Elena wrote these books after her friend, Lila, disappeared at the age of 66.

We learn quite a bit about the neighborhood people who surround Elena and Lila. There are plenty of animosities and most of them are explained once we learn the politics of the fathers or that some families earned what money they have in rather unsavory ways. It is an amazing novel full of political, sociological, social, and economic details by which our author, Elena Ferrante, creates an entire town and also brings to life the people and relationships in that town. But the two friends and their stormy association with each other are at the heart of this story. Elena’s first novel in this series is unique and fascinating and I have already moved on to the second which already has me under its spell.

By Nancy Brisson

The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman – Book

Alice Hoffman does not usually write about people who were real, nor does she use the style of “magical realism but her newest book The Marriage of Opposites is set in the perfect environment to show off her mystical talents which drew me to her in her earliest book Illumination Night. I kept thinking that Isabel Allende, who is just about the Queen of Magical Realism, wrote this book and this story of the woman who became the mother of the artist Camille Pissarro and of the island of St. Thomas. But this time it was Alice Hoffman who mastered this style which thrives best in the tropics, and the setting on that sparsely settled island of St. Thomas in the 1800’s allows her to cook the magic right into the people, the history, and eventually into the paintings Pissarro produced.

How a Jewish community ended up in the tropics is a tale of the old world and the new. Religious persecution in France led Jews to look for safety. When the Danes, who owned St. Thomas, promised to allow Jewish people safety and freedom to worship as they pleased, some Jewish people settled there. Here is the first “marriage of opposites” in Hoffman’s book. The very climate of St. Thomas, the heat, the flowers, the winds from Africa, the molasses and the rum were at sensual war with the socially uptight European culture and the religious strictures that the Jews from Europe brought with them. Young people, on a small island with few inhabitants were expected to live according to strict 19th century codes while as children they had been allowed the freedom to play with non-European children and to roam the island. Once mature they were expected, indeed commanded, to live by the rules, girls especially. Rachel Pomié was spoiled by her father who educated her in several languages including the language of mathematics and accounting. She, even in the face of her mother’s disapproval, roamed St.Thomas with the cook Adelle’s daughter Jestine.

Rachel writes down some of the tales of the island which tell us of stairs constructed to confound werewolves and leaves that fall in people’s hair, leaves which are the souls of the dead people we knew and loved. Rachel marries, as all 19th century daughters must. She marries Issac, a man who had eight children and lost his first wife. She does not love him but a psychic has promised her that another man will come along who will be her love. Rachel and Jestine dream of going to live in Paris. The man, Frederick, who will be Camille Pissarro’s father arrives in St. Thomas on a ship from that French city one day after Rachel has been widowed. He sees Rachel and immediately, but not conveniently, falls in love with her. They dream together of the green rain when they sleep at night.

This book has plenty of both magic and realism. You will be immersed in a world of color – red, haint blue, lavender, pink, green, grey, and an entire palette of opposites – the strong colors of tropical splendor and the cooler colors of a temperate climate with a Parisian ambience. Alice Hoffman your book was enchanting.

By Nancy Brisson

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The Bourbon Kings by J R Ward – Book

The Bourbon Kings by J. R. Ward is soap opera in prose. But it is obviously very good soap opera. When I got the drift of the genre of this novel I intended to put it down, to just let it go. I do have trouble letting a book go once I have it in my possession, but the fact is that this book was so compulsively readable (although not very carefully edited) that the next thing I knew I was at the end.

The Blackwine family lives what looks like a wealthy and privileged life. Their estate is enormous. William Blackwine married into the Bradford family. They make and sell one of the best loved bourbons in the country and that is where the fortune comes from. They also race horses and are very involved in sponsoring a brunch before a race that sounds suspiciously like the Kentucky Derby. (almost exactly like the Kentucky Derby).

Lane has been disgusted by his father since his treatment of Edward, Lane, Max and Gin in their childhood years and his father’s behavior has not improved with age. Lane has been crashing on a friend’s sofa in NYC for two years (good friend) but when he gets the news that Miss Aurora is ill he quickly packs a bag and returns home even though he will have to deal with his wife and his ex-girlfriend once he gets there. After Lane’s mother took to her bed when the children were young, and then rarely left her own rooms, Miss Aurora raised the children and they all loved her very much.

But Lizzie, the ex-girlfriend, is hardly happy that Lane is coming home either. She thought that they had been in love and then he married someone more closely aligned with the family’s social level. Lizzie is a horticulturist and is in charge of the gardens and all the floral arrangements for the entire estate. She’s in the middle of preparations for the Derby Brunch but all she really wants to do is get out of town before Lane arrives. Fortunately she has a strong sense of duty.

It’s not great literature, but it is a good family saga and romance. J. R. Ward is actually Jessica Rowley Pell Bird, a 46 year old with a list of successful books to her credit. As I read along in The Bourbon Kings I kept thinking that the book had been written by a woman so I was happy to learn that I got it right. This book is already on several reputable reading lists suggesting Ward has a good fan base for her work. I did enjoy the story and I am looking forward to the next book in this series. I will classify this one as a guilty pleasure.

By Nancy Brisson

Young Babylon by Lu Nei – Book (Trans. by Poppy Toland)

Take a trip to modern China with Lu Xiaolu. It won’t be a fancy trip. This young “outlaw” is only nineteen and he is quite poor. He grew up in New Chemical Village near the chemical factory where his father worked. He did not push himself in high school, even though he would have chosen to be a shop assistant over a factory worker, probably because he did not have a studious or obedient disposition. His parents prepared him for his most probable destiny which would be a positon at the chemical factory. This factory is old, dingy, dreary, dirty, dangerous, and rat infested. Some of the chemicals are volatile and industrial accidents are common. But this novel is not all doom and gloom. Lu Xiaolu, while hardly always happy with his fate, is young, handsome, and his audacious behavior entertains some of his coworkers (and us) and enrages others.

Our peek into a 1990’s era Chinese factory is eye-opening. There are hierarchies within hierarchies; there are bosses and supervisors, department level people. There are cadres who often have clerical duties. There are the laboratory girls. There are the workers who sort themselves out by who is the biggest hard ass. In fact, Lu Xiaolu is apprenticed to a man called Old Bad-Ass. There are the aunties, some attractive, some scary and there are women who are tough but not at all attractive known as tigers.

Our boy gets the name Magic Head because when he hit his head against a broken water pump that he was trying to remove (because he was in the formaldehyde room and the fumes made him faint) the pump started working and all he got was a bump on his forehead. Our hero is young and not one to follow rules. He chafes against the idea that he will spend his entire life in the chemical factory and he gets punished often by frustrated supervisors.

For a while he is apprenticed to an electrician and gets to roam the factory changing light bulbs and chatting up the lab girls and Little Pouty Lips in personnel. Bai Lan, the young female doctor, starts out being amused by Lu Xiaolu’s rebellions and physical confrontations but is also unnerved by them. She becomes his solace.

Lu Nei, who wrote Young Babylon (which I am guessing is somewhat autobiographical) gave me a less-than-depressing experience of a life that might drive some to the edge of suicide. Any insight into China, as it is such a closed-off society is valuable, at least to me.

Babylon is a Biblical term for the bare lands that tribes of Israel were banished to by God and which has been used in literary circles to describe someone who lives an unruly life and suffers the consequences. Lu Nei is a talented literary voice from a vast and foreign land. However, if you read any other books by Chinese authors the people are familiar and quirky, real, and not so different from people I met in American factories when I worked there during summers home from college. Yes, yes, thank you Lu Nei. I really liked your book.

By Nancy Brisson

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Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum – Book

“Anna was a good wife mostly.” This kind of equivocation is at the heart of Jill Alexander Essbaum’s novel Hausfrau. Anna, an American, married to Swiss banker Bruno Benz, calls her relationship “a version of love.” Anna is living a life she is not sure she likes. She feels that she has no real desires of her own, although her indulgence in love affairs suggests otherwise. Anna lives in Switzerland because her husband was transferred there shortly after they married. Even after eight years her German is only at an intermediate level and her Schwiizerdütsch, the language spoken among Swiss people, is almost nonexistent, much like her social life.

Anna says that she and Bruno are, “more or less, in love”. They have three children: Victor (8), Charles (6), and Polly Jean (an infant) but Anna says that she “…hadn’t wanted to be a mother. She didn’t yearn for it.” Yet she got pregnant three times and this is story is not a period piece set in an age of restraint. This is a contemporary story. Anna is unhappy living with Bruno in Switzerland but she does not ask for a divorce. Her passivity is maddening. She asks her husband instead, “[w]hat would you do if I left?” She convinces herself that she cannot leave because of the children. She does not act like she would miss her children much, except Charles, perhaps.

Anna sees a shrink Doktor Messerli and is always asking her for revealing clarifications. “What is the difference between shame and guilt?” What is the difference between passivity and neutrality?”

I found Anna both familiar and annoying. She reminds me of the sexually suppressed woman whose hysterical paralysis led Freud to invent a whole new type of psychotherapy. Except she goes to the opposite extreme and become “a version of” promiscuous. Anna personifies the frustration women felt in my mother’s era that we have supposedly escaped. Is she so stuck because she is in a foreign country? Is she suffering from a mental illness that freezes her in a place she berates herself for getting trapped in? If she had developed a career path to go along with being a wife and mother would she be happier? Why is she unable to make decisive moves?

I cannot tell you Anna’s fate. That is the bargain between those who write about books and those who read about books. Hausfrau is a well-written book and you find yourself analyzing it long after the covers have been closed. This is one of my measures for a good book. If it makes me think, then I value the author’s skill. But I also have to think about why Jill Alexander Essbaum’s Anna Benz upsets me so. Although my life is nothing like Anna’s, how much of her do I see in myself? Is she too flawed as a character or are her flaws what makes her interesting? These are questions each reader must answer. Read the book.

By Nancy Brisson

At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen – Book

Imagine this novel, At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen, is a smoothie you are mixing up in your literary blender. The first of our ingredients are two American men medically unfit for service in World War II, wealthy and privileged but too young to be in control of their families fortunes. We also have one beautiful young woman, Maddie, with wealthy parents but no income who marries one of the clueless pair, Hank and Ellis. We have Ellis’s dad in the recipe, a dad who was shamed by supposedly faking pictures of the Loch Ness Monster, leading Ellis to decide to go (while war is raging) across the Atlantic to clear his father’s name. We have Angus Grant, a Colonel training Commandos and acting as proprietor of the inn where the three Americans have booked rooms. We have Anna and Meg who help out at the inn and a number of other villagers. World War II is an ingredient in our smoothie. Although this Scottish village is distant from the action in the waning days of the war in Europe, residents are still required to use blackout shades at sundown, carry gas masks at all times and to shelter when bombing occurs.

This is definitely an odd set of circumstances around which to create a novel. The author combines quite a number of genres, including a war story; a small Scottish village relationships tale; a story line of bad men and good women, good men and good women, abuse and romance. We have a thread about the wages of lying, another about finding a monster; magical events and ancient superstitions which could only be believable in a small Scottish village. Then we have a commentary about social classes, upper class versus lower class protocol (both classes have rules), crossing class lines, how war levels social classes (at least temporarily). And more. That is a lot going on in one book and yet the author has control over all the characters and all the story elements throughout and is able to produce a novel that is both as perceptive as a fine literary publication and as satisfying as a bodice-ripper, with everyone, pretty much, ending up with the fate they deserve.

By Nancy Brisson

Queen of the Trailer Park by Alice Quinn – Book

Queen of the Trailer Park: Rosie Maldonne’s World by Alice Quinn has been translated from the French by Alexandra Maldwyn-Davies. Rosie Maldonne lives in France although either most of the French-ness has been translated out of this book, or France and America are not as different as we all believe. Fortunately this means that the book will not present any cultural difficulties for American readers. Rosie likes to be called CriCri and she is a single mom who loves her babies. She has a number of pet terms for her children, among them “kiddos and tots and babas”. (I wonder how the synonyms she uses sound in French?)

Rosie’s biggest problem is that she is poor. She works sporadically because she has to work when her “chickadees” are at school or day care. Luckily she found a place that will let her waitress for a few hours at a time and even sing sometimes if someone can take care of the “crib lizards” (she cracks her children up with that one). Rose lost her mom when she was sixteen and has been on her own now for nine years. She is resourceful and colorful and apparently pretty, despite her style choices which tend towards “red leather miniskirt and orange satin corset with fluorescent pink wedges.”

When we meet Rosie she is out of food and out of money and she is trying to find a friend she can hit up until her welfare check arrives. As she visits with her friend Veronique in front of McDonald’s, her eldest child, Stephanie (5) starts making a racket near the McDonald’s trash cans. She has apparently unearthed a Happy Meal toy, a princess. When CriCri (Rosie) goes over to investigate her fortunes change almost immediately. She finds an envelope full of Euros, lots and lots of Euros. She wanders by more trash cans with her “rug rats” and in every trash can is another envelope.

Of course, she realizes that this money represents some kind of pay off or dirty money, but she is so needy and, she reasons, finders keepers. Besides every day recently her mom has sent her a song that has somehow been prophetic and today was no exception. The song for the day was about money. She does, however, know better than to become a big spender. After this dubious stroke of luck Rosie’s life starts moving very fast.

Next her friend, Veronique loses her baby boy, Pierre, and then Veronique also goes missing. Rumors of murder trouble Rosie even though she wants more proof. Then she meets the two policemen investigating the case and feels an attraction to the younger cop-in-training. She meets Gaston, an elderly, wealthy and famous (and exceedingly nice) poet. She meets the mayor. The mafia gets involved and Rosie’s trailer gets trashed.

This is almost a murder mystery and Rosie is sort of a sexy, wacky, maternal, French Stephanie Plum, making Alice Quinn an oo-la-la Janet Evanovich. Queen of the Trailer Park is an enjoyable little amuse bouche or perhaps a palate cleanser between heavier tomes. You gotta love a woman who loves children as much as Rosie (CriCri) does. Rosie is a force of nature. I don’t think we are done with Rose Maldonne.

By Nancy Brisson