The intriguing cover (and title!) of MoonPies and Movie Stars by Amy Wallen promises a rollicking good read and it did just that.
It's late 1960's in Devine, Texas.We meet the central character Ruby as she is preparing to decorate her bowling alley for a wedding reception the town's womenfolk are having to celebrate the wedding of their favourite soap opera's stars. As her sister Loralva and her daughter's mother in law Imogene and others arrive to help we get a real sense of the town, their relationships and temperaments from the dialogue. More than a few characters remind me of a few folks from my small town!
"Becca Ann has such a nice smile, and whenever I ask her to do anything she grins like she wouldn't rather do nothing else! What more could you ask for in a daughter-in-law?"
As they settle in to watch the wedding on television, Ruby is stunned to see her daughter Violet in a commercial. Violet has been missing for four years. She upped and left her husband Harley and children Bubbie and Bunny without a word. Ruby ended up taking in the kids to live with her. Both children have some issues - Bubbie is fascinated with roadkill and Bunny is never without her Mrs. Beasley doll.
Ruby decides to go to Hollywood and find Violet. Loralva is going as well- to help find Violet - but also to fulfill her dream of meeting Bob Barker and being on the Price is Right game show. Harley's mother Imogene invites herself along, as she is thrilled to now be related to someone famous, plus they need her Winnebago to make the trip.
MoonPies and Movie Stars is an absolutely charming novel. Ruby is someone you wished you knew - she has a heart of gold and the determination to see anything through. There are lots of comedic moments and situations - especially when they arrive in Hollywood. But there is also a deeper thread running though the story. What is family and what makes a mother? Wallen deftly mixes the humorous and the poignant with Southern charm.
An absolute gem of a first novel, MoonPies and Movie Stars will appeal to fans of Fannie Flagg and Billie Letts. I'm looking forward to the next one!
As to the title - well MoonPies are a favourite Texas snack and play a pivotal role in this tale. And to my Canadian readers - as near as I can figure MoonPies are a first cousin to Wagon Wheels.