by Kathleen Eagle, contemporary (2002)
William Marrow & Co, $24.95, ISBN 0-06-621472-6
Picture me doing my best Chris Tucker banshee shriek impersonation as I cry, "Rewind! Rewind!" all the way through Kathleen Eagle's latest novel Once Upon A Wedding. Her latest novel sees the meeting of two worlds: the Native American world meets the Southern Sisterhood thing. If you find the idea of a Divine Secrets Of The Native American Country Singing Ya-Ya Sisterhood thing repulsive to the extreme, you know what to do.
Southern belle Camille Delonga always believe in moderation. Since her divorce from her Native American hubby Creed, she believes that the best weddings should be simple. Her mother Rosemary and she have finally made up after their bitter acrimony over Camille's marriage, but it may be too late as Rosie is dying of cancer. When Camille's daughter Jordan announces rather abruptly her upcoming nuptials to James, the Delonga women find themselves caught in the mad whirlwind that is wedding preparations. Camille wants simple. Simple? Yeah right.
The mother of the bridegroom will probably never forget that Jordan dropped out of school, and worse, she's also the wedding planner (talk about practical marriages) and in the midst of a divorce to boot. Things don't look good. Rosemary wants to make a wedding dress for Jordan, but you know how things are. Granny - 18th century, Jordan - 21st century. But how can you tell no to a dying woman whose wedding gown may as well be her swan song in life?
Then Creed comes back into their lives, and Camille's headache has only just begun.
Wait, let me restate that. Then Creed comes back, and this story is ruined, ruined completely.
Until Creed, this story is just magical. Camille, Rosemary, the future mother-in-law Bridget, the friend Ellie, and to a lesser extent Jordan - all are real, real characters with vulnerabilities and strengths that are just too easily identifiable. Death, love, divorce, loss, and forgiveness, all are explored and touched upon with a healthy dose of humor and poignancy. I especially love the interactions between Camille and Rosemary - just think of Gilmore Girls' Lorelai Gilmore and her mother Emily's relationship should those two ever make up and coexist peacefully together. There are moments of prickly exchanges as well as warm ones. All in all, just real.
Then comes Creed, never a more stereotypical cowboy/Native American "I hafta to be free because baybee, my soul is free" or some rot caricature. He dominates the story more and more with each turning of the pages, and worse, he brings out the worst stereotypical traits from all the women around him. Rosemary becomes a know-it-all matchmaking old broad, Jordan becomes a self-absorbed Daddy's girl, and Camille becomes an indecisive Southern Maybelline Brown Cow. Bridget? Ellie? Were you ever in this story, girlfriends?
And oh yeah, Creed of the roving eye and hands, who needs to be free from corporate shackles, et cetera, gets back his wife. I still don't know how it happened. Maybe his final declaration of love shows it best:
"She said she didn't think you had decided yet. Your story's not over yet, and you've never loved anyone but me. Either you're going to carry a torch for me until the grave finally puts out the fire or you're going to give me another chance. Which sounds better to you?"
Really, rewind. Or rewrite. Heck, erase that irritating stereotype Creed out of this story, please. I want my story of Southern Sisterhood who finds redemption in Dolly Parton, honky-tonk dancings, and other tired, tired "Southern" plot devices (although Kathleen Eagle pulls these off well thanks to her - mostly - well-done characterizations). I don't want Creed and the Roving Honky-Tonk Loser Apologia. Rewrite!
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
Search for more reviews of works by this author: