Wish You Well by David Baldacci
Lou and her brother Oz have to move to Virginia, to a farm, in fact, after they were in a terrible car accident. Their parents had been arguing about moving to California, when the accident occurred. Their father didn’t make it and their mother was left as a shell of herself. They were all put on a train to go live with their great-grandmother on her farm. Louisa is a tough woman, but is very caring and eager to give everyone the opportunities they deserve.
The two children soon make friends with a young man named Diamond, well, Jimmy, but everyone calls him Diamond. He has no family. Their great-grandmother looks after him. He’s free to roam the hills. Another man, named Eugene, but most people call him Hell No, lives with Louisa. People make a fuss about it because he’s black, but Louisa doesn’t care.
The local lawyer comes to read to their mother every day. All she does is sit there.
Besides their mother, there are other problems. Natural gas has been bound on their grandmother’s farm and a development company wants to buy it. They try to turn the entire town against her saying they won’t buy any property from anyone else in town, unless Louisa sells hers. There is a tragic accident in a mine, which causes everyone to mourn, but it also brings suspicion on the company trying to buy everyone out. More unfortunate things happen, but can the children avoid the most unfortunate thing of all?
What I liked
This is the first time I’ve read a David Baldacci book and I’m not disappointed. There are other writers who do the South better, but David does a pretty good job depicting Southern life. He’s depicting Southern mountain life, which is different from straight-up Southern life. There’s something different about mountain people from the South. I am technically a mountain person from the South, so you can probably take my word for it.
Grandmothers are pretty great. I liked that Lou and Oz got to know their grandmother for a while and learn from her. Sometimes, your grandmother can teach you the best lessons in life.
What I didn’t like
While I do feel that David did a great job with the whole Southern thing, I kind of feel some of the struggles that the people in this book face are cliché. You know, of course the small Southern town back in the 1940s-1950s is racist. Of course people don’t like that one person is friends with a black person. Of course some evil company does nefarious things trying to get someone’s land. Of course when you start talking about money, the rest of the town turns on you fast. Of course it’s the mom who went crazy.
I’ve read so many books where one, or more, of these issues is in the book. While it may be true that all of these issues could have been, and can be, very real problems, people do have other problems. Why is it never the dad who has the mental breakdown? It always seems like it’s the woman.
Hide your minerals! The big company is coming to take your land!
If some company offered you a lot of money for your land, would you sell it, knowing they were just going to destroy it?
Are stereotypical problems enjoyable to read about because they’re familiar, or do they get old?
Making Waves by Cassandra King
Donnette’s aunt up and died and left her not only her beauty parlor, but her house. She now lives there with her husband Tim. It’s a sad situation really. Tim was the star of the football team, who everyone loved, but a terrible car accident has left him disabled. He works part-time at a saw mill. Donnette does the hair.
She has to fix up Miss Maudy for her funeral, the only problem with this is that Miss Maudy is dead. She always liked to have her hair in waves though. So Donnette does it right. She decides that she needs to name her shop and she aptly names it Making Waves, which is certainly something that starts to happen around the area.
Taylor, the man who caused Tim’s car accident, and former best friend, comes back to town to help out the woman who raised him. It’s his aunt, but he just can’t let his aunt be pushed around by her brother. There’s a scandal going on with one of the young women in town. She’s going with an older man, who is divorced. People are talking. People also start talking about how Taylor is hanging around an older woman, who was friends with his mother growing up.
Then there’s the whole deal between Tim and Taylor. Was it really that bad? Why is the whole thing so weird? Meanwhile, Tim’s artistic talent is rediscovered and he gets an opportunity to go to college to teach art. Donnette isn’t so sure about the whole thing.
What I liked
I tend to like Southern sagas. This certainly fits that bill. It’s a small town. There are southern accents. Everybody knows everybody. If you’re related to someone, everyone places you by who you’re related to. Oh, you’re related to the so-and-sos out by the creek. Well, that’s how it worked where I grew up. Everyone measured everything in creeks– White Creek, Bean Creek, Town Creek, Dick’s Creek and so forth.
The house I used to have used to have a home beauty parlor in it. For a time, it was my art studio, which got flooded, and I got upset, and my ex-husband then tore apart, because that makes perfect sense. Home beauty parlors do hold a small place in my heart. It’s also like the cliché Southern woman thing. If you didn’t go to regular college, maybe you went to cosmetology school and you cut hair in a room in your house.
What I didn’t like
I’m not impressed. Everyone in this book seems like a terrible person, except maybe Tim. Everyone else sucks. Some Southern people have the tendency to put on airs, meaning they act better than they actually are, or, if you need a more down-to-Earth description–they act like their s*** doesn’t stink. They’re just about the worst kind of people sometimes. They’ll bless your heart and go to the Baptist or Methodist church on Sundays, but then treat you like utter dirt and look down their noses at you if you’re not the same religion, the same color, or your family isn’t from the town. If you’re a transplant you better forget about having these people approve of you. I feel like everyone, everyone, in this book was that kind of person.
They look down on a person for being divorced–check.
They don’t trust someone with non-local origins–check.
They don’t trust someone who doesn’t act like the other boys/girls/men/women in town–check.
Really, I could go on.
At one point, Donnette actively seeks to go against her husband. I don’t mean she wants to disagree with him or argue with him, or whatever, I mean she actively tries to inhibit his life when he gets an opportunity to go to art school, for her own darn selfish reasons. There may have also been a little something more between Taylor and Tim, big deal, whatever, but Donnette gets really awful about it. Look, if you have a spouse, loved one, or whatever you like to call your partner, it’s not a good move, on your part, to sabotage their opportunities. A happier other half probably means a happier life for you. If they want to go back to school–who are you to stand in their way? I can see saying no if this person habitually goes back to school and racks up debt and never works, but otherwise, you kind of have to allow this person to better themselves, if you love them.
Donnette also seeks to end Tim’s friendship with Taylor. Look, I don’t care if they’re secretly gay, or bi-curious, or whatever. Who freaking cares if they used to go out, or do it, or whatever? That’s the past. You can’t go around thinking about all the people your current loved one used to go out with. Obviously, there is a reason your spouse, or whoever, is not with those people anymore. They’re with you. Honestly, if it came down to it and your significant other really did want to be with someone else, you’re not doing anyone any favors by trying to keep them away. They’re going to be miserable. You’re going to be miserable. The other person is going to be miserable. Any kids involved will be miserable. It’s just one big bucket of miserable.
Donnette may initially strike readers as a sweetheart, and I’m sure she has her sweet moments, but she plays just as dirty as the dirty people and she does some not very nice things. There’s not really a hero. Tim is the best person, like I said, but I think he’s too stupid to realize how awful everyone around him is.
Come get your hair did at Making Waves Salon. The entire town will be talking about you for two weeks afterwards and it’s not because of that new perm.
Do you feel that Donnette is a good person?
Is it ok to act like you’re something you’re not?