Synopsis (From GoodReads):
Welcome to Quinn, Montana, population: 956. A town where nearly all of the volunteer firemen are named Jim, where The Dirty Shame—the only bar in town—refuses to serve mixed drinks (too much work), where the locals hate the newcomers (then again, they hate the locals, too), and where the town softball team has never even come close to having a winning season. Until now.
Rachel Flood has snuck back into town after leaving behind a trail of chaos nine years prior. She’s here to make amends, but nobody wants to hear it, especially her mother, Laverna. But with the help of a local boy named Jake and a little soul-searching, she just might make things right.
In the spirit of Empire Falls and A League of Their Own, with the caustic wit of Where’d You Go, Bernadette thrown in for good measure, Richard Fifield’s hilarious and heartwarming debut will have you laughing through tears.
A black sheep returns to the fold and tries to atone for her very bad behavior in this book. But were her actions any worse than her own mother? Should that matter? I happen to be drawn to stories about small town life (the quirkier, the better!), so this book was a special treat.
Rachel was a druggie and alcoholic as a teen and slept with most of the members of the town's volunteer fire department. Other than having an obnoxious mom who runs a bar, the book doesn't give much of an explanation for why she was so self-abusive. But I think the point of the story is that it doesn't matter. What matters is who she is now. As the novel begins, Rachel has been sober and following the AA 12-step program successfully. But there is one rung on the ladder to recovery that she can't seem to get past: making amends with those she hurt. There is a very long list of people to ask to be forgiven: all the wives of the men she slept with (even though she was under age and was actually a victim), her former best friend Crystal, her mom Laverna, and her toughest critic, herself.
What I loved:
Characters:I thought Rachel was one of the most realistic studies in a person coming to terms with their alcoholism that I have seen in a book to date. Even though she has been sober for nearly a year, that is only one of the issues in her life. She needs to make amends with so many people. But she also must, somehow, forgive herself. I appreciated that the author, Richard Fifield, didn't resort to scenes of Rachel looking longingly at a bottle to convey her struggle. There is so much more to healing than just not drinking.
Aside from Rachel, there is a plethora of interesting characters. I loved the tween character Jake, and all the various "Flood Girls" on the local softball team. There are male characters that I hated from Jake's sleazy step-father Bert, to Reverend Foote, a preacher who oozed insincerity. But there were also solid guys such as "The Chief" who acts as Rachel's sobriety sponsor, and the sweet repair man who has a crush on Rachel. Rachel's mom, Laverna, is a special kind of messed up human-being. I appreciated how each individual had their problems and were fully-fleshed out people.
I lived a large part of my life in a small town, and I remember those days well. For better or worse, everyone knew everyone else. Kids couldn't get away with much without their parents finding out about it. If you had a dispute with your neighbor, it could easily turn into a decades-long feud. This book has a lot of those little touches that make the town of Quinn, Montana come to life. I also liked that, while some people were desperate to leave for more cosmopolitan cities (particularly Jake who can't be openly gay in this town), many were content to live out their lives in Quinn. I could totally see the appeal. There can be something very comforting in small-town life.
What I didn't like:
I was really saddened by what happens to one character. It was like watching an ant struggle to move up the hill only to see it crushed when it makes it to the top! The ending may have been realistic, but it was very unsatisfying. I work hard to NOT put spoilers in my reviews, so I can't say precisely what happened in the story. But I thought that, even if justice couldn't be served, the "Flood Girls" would have done more to make sure a certain someone got their comeuppance.
Other than that, I really enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more from this author in the future.
Release Date: February 2nd, 2016
Source: Public Library
Format: Audio Book
Recommendation: Although the subject matter is sobering, the characters are inviting and compelling. This might be good for a book club to tackle.