Monday, September 28, 2009

Review: A Cold Corner of America

If I ever wrote a book, this would be it. I've asked myself before, "In creating a story, what is your thing?" What is that 'thing' about my life that is unique and worth telling? Well, I don't have much. The only thing I've ever been able to think of is that I'm a Southerner living in the North, but I lack the creativity to make that a story. And then I found this book.

Whistlin' Dixie in a Nor'easter is author Lisa Patton's debut novel. A Tennessee native accustomed to long summers and brief winters, she spent three long, brutally cold winters running an inn in Vermont. And thus, a story was born.

Leelee Satterfield is happy with her life in Memphis. She's got her family, her four best friends, her husband she's loved since the tenth grade, and their two beautiful daughters. When her husband Baker gets a little antsy, he is inspired to buy a Vermont inn and haul the family North to run the bed-and-breakfast. And Leelee agrees...only because she has been love with him forever. But things don't go as smoothly as Leelee hopes and not only is her relationship on the rocks, Vermont is COLD. When Baker picks up and leaves Leelee with the inn, she must try to make the best of her misery and prove she's not just a helpless Southern belle.

I swear Lisa Patton was reading my mind as she wrote this. Either that or we think eerily alike. Our shared bitter hatred of the cold is one thing, but she goes into such detail on the tiny nuances that are so defining of me and my life up here. Like:
  • "Memphis is my home. It always will be no matter where I live."
  • "I know people say the summer is sweltering, but it never bothers me."
  • Vermont = "a foreign corner of American" that is "sooo Yankeeish"
  • "When I took my first sip, I could tell right away that it was Pepsi. I hate Pepsi."
  • "...Northerners believe that anywhere with less than one million people is only a town." [We don't do 'towns' in the South.]
  • "Barbecue to Northerners meant 'grilling out' so if I wanted a barbecue sandwich I might as well set my tastebuds on a hamburger." [The word 'barbecue': North = verb, South = food.]
Not to mention references to Corky's barbecue, Johnny Majors and Neyland Stadium, Mother's Day Out, and First Tennessee Bank—those little familiarities that you forget don't exist everywhere.

Needless to say, I loved this book. A well-developed main character that grew as the plot progressed, an entertaining ensemble of supporting characters, and a pleasing but not lame ending. I may be a little biased for this book for all the reasons mentioned above, but I still think it'd be an enjoyable (and hilarious) read for people anywhere in the country (or outside of it!).

Thomas Dunne Books
320 Pages, Hardcover
ISBN: 978-0-312-55660-0

Review copy provided by publisher (Thomas Dunne).

This is the first stop for me on the Literary Road Trip, hosted @ Galleysmith. I claimed my great home state of Tennessee. You may be saying, "But don't all of you live in New York?" and the answer is yes. But New York was already claimed by about four other people, and Tennessee was not. And as mentioned earlier, Tennessee will always be my home, no matter where else I live.

Tune in tomorrow for an interview with Lisa Patton, author of
Whistlin' Dixie in a Nor'easter!


Salvatore said...

This Pepsi vs Coke thing is really fascinating. It's quite a common thread in southern writing, eh?

Kari said...

Haha, it's a big deal, Sal! They are not the same and Coke is better!

ChristinaO said...

Oh...I have to read this book now. I was a reverse though - Vermonter who went to school on the Kentucky/Tennessee border. I can't wait to see her perspective of Vermont - it's unique to itself, moreso than just being another New England state.

For me it was not a Pepsi vs. Coke thing - more a "Coke" vs. Soda thing. Asking for a "Coke" does not mean I should grab you a Dr. Pepper!

FUn annecdote: In a marketing class in college discussing branding....Everyone swore Coke was the better soda and that they could tell the difference. I challenged that while there might be a difference, the two are too close to really tell and branding was really important to sales for both - the professor challenged me to run a taste test - 20 people and the results were that you really can taste a slight difference but can't determine which is which.

Almost got lynched when I gave one classmate two tastes of Coke and she swore one was Pepsi.

Kari said...

Christina - that's hilarious! 'Coke' is the word for 'soda' in general. As in, "For lunch, I had a sandwich and a coke." But really, maybe I had a Sprite. Haha, I realize it makes no sense, and I can never explain the logic behind it when people ask.

I've done the Coke test before. I think I got them right, but it was luck. I agree that there's a small different, but you can taste a bigger difference if you know which is which. That's a whole psychology test in itself.

Florinda said...

You had me at "Corky's barbecue." I'm not a Memphis native, but I lived there for 10 years and my son grew up there; it's always going to feel like home to me. I moved out west seven years ago, but I order Corky's BBQ sauce shipped by the case and have gotten my California family hooked on it :-).

This book has gone on my wishlist - thanks for the review!