Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Review: The Sweet Potato Queens'...

The Sweet Potato Queens' First Big-Ass Novel by Jill Conner Browne with Karin Gillespie
3.5 stars

First line: "Is a queen created or is she born that way, making her entrance into the world with her hand curled into a fist as if grasping a teeny-tiny scepter?"

Reasons for reading:
I love Southern lit; liked the title

Summary (from Booklist):
Browne's Sweet Potato Queen advice books on love, divorce, and cooking have found a wide audience in readers who appreciate the Queens' sassy southern charm. With coauthor Gillespie, Browne turns to fiction for the first time to share lives and loves of the Queens. Jill, Mary Bennett, Patsy, and Gerald are united by their outsider status in high school. When Tammy, a beautiful but insecure redhead, moves into town and is humiliated by the in-crowd, Jill and company form the Tammy Club to bolster her spirits. The five enter the homecoming parade in wild dresses and red wigs, but a misprint on their sign (it reads Yammy instead of Tammy) leads to the five rechristening themselves the Sweet Potato Queens. The groups' friendships last for decades, despite distance and differences of opinion. Mary Bennett pursues fame on the coasts, Gerald comes to terms with his sexuality, and Tammy marries. But not everything is rosy. Mary Bennett finds success as a soap actress at the expense of the love of her life, Jill finds a man who proves too good to be true, and Tammy's insecurities lead to infidelities.

My thoughts:
I had no idea the Sweet Potato Queens were such a phenomenon! When the book was written the flap mentioned 4100 chapters of the group and now there are 5495, according to the website. And there's even SPQ music, including a song called "I Wanna Be a Sweet Potato Queen". I think I wanna, too, they're a hoot! I'd love to see their float in the Mal's St. Paddy’s Parade in Jackson (which I guess is coming up).

I loved the Southern-ness of it, with all the "hunnys" and "y'alls." Having my Minnesota connection, I particularly enjoyed Mary Bennett's attempts to get Minnesota-born Patsy (whom she calls Swiss Miss) to speak with a drawl while constantly mixing up every M-state in the union ("What in the hell is going on up there in Montana?").

I did get rather frustrated with just about all of the characters along the way - Tammy's cheating, Gerald's sulking and terrorist-like activism and Jill's inability to have a romantic relationship, but I liked the way the Queens stayed together over the years, even though there were a lot of rough spots.

The costumes, the parade, the adventures, the idea for a restaurant that serves "funeral food"- this book is jam-packed with fun, friendship, and laughs!


LisaMM said...

My book club just picked this one to read in July. I was kind of disappointed it got picked but after reading your review I feel a little better about it. Thanks!

tinylittlelibrarian said...

Lisa - glad to be of service! It's not high literature, for sure, but it's fun. I think it'll make a good summer read. :)