Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Review: Lookin' Back, Texas

Summary: Betty Lynne Davidson is planning her husband’s funeral while overlooking one thing: he’s not dead.

When Suzanne Mullins, forty-two, gets the call from her father to come back home to Texas because her mother has gone off the deep end, she knows it will mean having to look at the faulty foundations of their marriage as well as her own. Betty Lynne has always upheld a perfect facade of home and family, and Suzanne has followed suit. But her life with husband Mike and son Oliver is cracking under the pressure of its own unspoken history.

Looking her past in the eye once and for all, Suzanne hopes that trusting in God’s love and mercy will set all of this craziness straight—even if it does mean having to watch her father give the eulogy at his own funeral. -- B&H Publishing Group

I received LOOKIN' BACK, TEXAS by Leanna Ellis through the Library Thing Early Reviewers' Program. It was the first book that I've been able to score through them; and I was beginning to think that it wouldn't ever come -- it took quite a few weeks. When I received it, I was a little surprised to find that it was Christian fiction. I'm not sure that I knew what I signing up for, but I was pleasantly surprised by this novel.

I am not a big reader of Christian fiction until very recently (and I still haven't read very many), so I'm probably not the best judge of the Christian aspect of this novel; however, I can review it as a women's fiction book (which, by the way, is how Ms. Ellis describes it on her website.) Based on the story and the humor, I felt that this book does have a lot to offer.

The premise of the story: a woman returns home to find that her parents troubled marriage has finally fallen apart. So much so, that her mother is planning her father's funeral because he left her (Get it? He's dead to her as far as she's concerned.) Not only does Suzanne feel that she has to repair her parents' marriage, but she is also beginning to doubt her own marriage and wonder if her son is heading towards trouble. If those weren't enough to worry about, she is also forced to come to terms with some secrets from her past, including her relationship with her high school boyfriend Drew. It's because of these issues that Suzanne's faith really comes into play.

I felt that Ms. Ellis did a good job of developing the characters of Suzanne and Mike. They were very believable to me, and I felt that I could understand their motivations and actions. I wasn't as impressed, however, with how Ms. Ellis developed the character of Drew. I didn't think his character really warranted his own chapters (in first person voice), but it didn't actually take away from the novel. Most of the other characters in the book (the Luckenbachites?) were quirky, yet memorable. I especially got a kick out of Suzanne's mother and her friends; and I thought they added to the charm of the story.

My favorite parts of this book were the scenes involving Suzanne's mother Betty Lynne. Betty Lynne is what most people would call a "riot." She was a woman who was definitely more concerned with appearances than she should have been. Her behavior and comments to her daughter, her grandson, and especially her husband were so ridiculous; and yet, I thought they were hilarious -- I even laughed out loud a few times. The funeral scene was positively hysterical, and I could totally visualize everything from the hall to the flowers to the food!

I would probably be remiss if I didn't mention the Christian angle of the story. I know some people may have been a little offended with some of the references, but Ms. Ellis probably isn't really writing for that audience anyway. I actually enjoyed the messages that LOOKIN' BACK, TEXAS provided to the reader -- marriage is sacred, honesty is best policy, and confession will result in mercy (I'm really paraphrasing here, but you get the idea.)

I do think that this novel would be a fun book to discuss for a book group, especially one that appreciates Christian literature. Check out the discussion questions here.

I definitely enjoyed LOOKIN' BACK, TEXAS; and I wouldn't hesitate to read another one of Ms. Ellis' books.


Amy said...

Julie!! What's your screenname on LT? Have I been talking to you without knowing it's you? (it's always weird when that happens!)

Anonymous said...

Julie, I enjoyed your review and am glad you liked the book. I read something by this author a few months ago, I think it was called Elvis Takes a Back Seat.

Anna said...

The mother sounds like an interesting character. Great review!

--Diary of an Eccentric