Today's selection is a sequel to 2013's The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat. Edward Kelsey Moore has decided to continue the journey of Odette, Clarice, and Barbara Jean in The Supremes Sing the Happy Heartache Blues. Now that readers already know the stories behind the three main characters, the sequel lets a new character come back to Plainview after a long absence.
The Situation: El Walker has returned to Plainview, Indiana only as a favor to an old friend. When El was a younger man, he regularly played at Forrest Payne's club, the Pink Slipper. His singing and guitar playing always brought in the crowd, but the musician's lifestyle helped turn him into an unpredictable drug addict. And after one fateful incident involving his young son, El left Plainview and vowed never to return. As soon as he receives his payment for the wedding gig, his plan is to leave Plainview once again and never look back.
The Problem: Unfortunately for El, complications from diabetes force an unplanned hospital visit. It seems the city he is ready to leave behind has decided to hold onto him for a little while longer. During his stay, he meets Barbara Jean, one of the three Plainview Supremes known for their regular table at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat, and the daughter of one of his foster sisters. He recognizes her face immediately, and the two begin an unlikely friendship that centers around memories of the past, even though most of them are not exactly happy. El still wants desperately to leave Plainview, knowing that the longer he stays, the more trouble he is likely to get into. But he is not the only one in Plainview with trouble coming. Clarice has an upcoming piano concert in Chicago that is making her more nervous by the day, and a newly-attentive husband she is not sure she wants to be with. And Odette will soon struggle to help a husband as he confronts his feelings about the return of an unwelcome visitor.
Genre, Theme, History: This is a fiction novel set mostly in the small town of Plainview, Indiana, and continues the story of the three Supremes, as they are known. Odette is still round and resolute, prone to speak her mind when it is least wanted and not caring in the least. While Clarice and Richmond are doing better in their relationship, she still is not sure if a traditional marriage is what she wants from him, even though for the first time, it is what he is willing to give her. And while the beautiful and kind Barbara Jean seems to have finally received her happily ever after, she still must confront the life of a mother who constantly humiliated her. Once again, Moore confronts the issues of generational sin, anger and forgiveness, and how family will always be able to remind you of where you came from, especially when you would rather forget. El wants nothing more than to continue outrunning his past, but it seems it has finally caught up with him and is determined to make him face what he did, even though he is not the only one who will suffer in the process. By the end it is fairly clear the story of the Supremes will continue into a third book, as there are still stories to tell and small town life to explore.
My Verdict: I adored the first book, and I adore this one as well. I loved being able to visit again with Odette, Clarice, and Barbara Jean, and see where their lives have lead now that Odette is cancer free, Richmond is still treating Clarice the way she deserves, and Barbara Jean has reconnected with an old love. The format of having Odette narrate some of the chapters, while a third person omniscient narrator takes care of the rest, can still be confusing, but not to the point where it is annoying or gets in the way of the story. Moore has a knack for portraying situations and stories that may seem ridiculous (and they are), but the characters are so well thought-out and believable that it comes off more like gossip than a crazy tale. Even the characters that are larger than life are people I can see myself being introduced to during a visit to the small towns my parents grew up in. There is a level of authenticity to everything that happens that not every writer is able to pull off.
Favorite Moment: When Veronica, a somewhat rival to the Supremes, thoroughly embarrasses herself after patting herself on the back for shaming them in public.
Favorite Character: Still Odette. It will probably always be Odette.
Recommended Reading: Obviously, there is the first book, The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat. But I will also recommend The Sellout by Paul Beatty.