I was afraid to start this book because when a book gets so many accolades, it's hard to live up to the hype. But in this case, I'm going to get all gushy on you and tell you I loved, loved, loved this book!
Upon reading the first paragraph,"Trouble cruised into Tupelo Landing at exactly seven minutes past noon on Wednesday, the third of June, flashing a gold badge and driving a Chevy Impala the colour of dirt. Mr Jesse turned up dead and life in Tupelo Landing turned upside down." I opened my heart and fell into this book, ready for wherever it was gonna take me.
You can like a book. You can appreciate the plot and the writing, but if the characters don't reach out from the pages and grab your heart, it will never be a great book.
Moses (Mo) LoBeau is a character who does this. She is a unique individual. In her own words:
"Some people look like they were born on a clothes hanger. Not me. I look more like I was born in a dryer."
"My voice is like a turkey gobble crammed in a corset, but nobody's told me to stop singing, and I ain't shy."
"I've been working on my temper but sometimes it feels like my brain's strait-wired to my mouth."
At the tail end of the worst hurricane in memory, the Colonel, after crashing his car, found a baby floating on a raft in the river. He named her Moses, unaware it was a girl. The next day they were found by Miss Lana. The two of them built The Cafe and a home, where, along with the rest of the 148 people of Tupola Landing, they raised Mo.
Here's the "thing about a small town: Everybody knows everybody's schedule. We spin around each other like planets around an invisible sun."
The first person narrative is punctuated with letters to Mo's unknown, upstream mother. They are filled with Mo's ruminations of life in Tupolo Landing: "Sometimes I wish Miss Lana and the Colonel were normal, but Lavender says normal is a relative term. "Right," I said. "What does that mean, exactly?" He said, "It means you think your relatives are normal right up until you notice they're not."
Life in a small town is not as simple as some might suppose. Dale, her best friend has an abusive alcoholic father. Her 'arch enemy,' Anna Celeste, has a vicious mother. While Mo's mother may have thrown her away once, these children are thrown away by their parents repeatedly.
I could honestly have lived with just reading about the community, but there is a murder and kidnapping to be solved. The suspense and tension ratchets up. It is full of humour, subterfuge, betrayal, and surprise.
I've spent time with Moses (Mo) LoBeau and her community and if I only could, I'd sell everything I own and move to Tupelo Landing, North Carolina, where I'd spend all my time hanging out at The Cafe. In the meantime, I'll just have to hope for a sequel.