Review by Booklist Review
As small southern towns go, Higby, Mississippi, is a hoot! Home to the Mammoth Mart, Far East House of Massage, and the We-Fix-It Auto Repair shop, Higby is a hilarious haven, a hotbed of hijinks with a high per-capita rate of wacky weirdness. From mousy Carmen Valentine, whose guardian angel, Arnetta, gives her penny-pinching shopping tips, to addled old Hank Grammar, who preaches Jesus to his neighbors' pets, Higby's townsfolk have a knack for getting into, and trouble getting out of, outrageous situations. Whether it's Clint Cullen, the minister's son with a predilection for falling off of Higby's water tower, or Talitha Leigh, who gets kidnapped by a militant cult of religious vegetarians, the attempts of Higby's residents to walk the straight-and-narrow somehow manage to take a more circuitous route. Blessed with an unerring eye for dead-on details, Dunn follows his nationally acclaimed debut novel, Ella Minnow Pea (2001), with another sparkling Southern send-up, treating the reader to a comical tour of some of the region's more entertaining eccentricities. --Carol Haggas
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Writing in the spirit of his clever debut novel, Ella Minnow Pea, in which an island's language-loving inhabitants must adapt to a shrinking alphabet, Dunn delivers another witty and intricate book. This time he uses biblical quotations to guide his narrative, which tracks the residents of Higby, Miss., during Labor Day weekend of 1993, as they search for happiness, love and salvation. The tightly interwoven story lines feature a veritable swarm of oddballs, including Stewie Kipp, a born-again Christian whose fiancee, Marci Luck, resents his attempts at piety; Talitha Leigh, a floozy who is kidnapped by an extremist vegan cult and renamed "Blithe"; and dim-witted Euless Ludlam, who finds himself on the receiving end of a huge inheritance. The Bible quotes aren't just gimmicky transitional devices, since the novel closely follows themes of redemption and salvation, albeit in a screwball manner: as one character, Carmen Valentine, notes, "My guardian angel likes to help me stretch my shopping dollar." The collision of celestial concepts and quirky mannerisms makes the book both laugh-out-loud funny and sweetly touching. At its core is the belief that "God equals love," though the characters demonstrate this in some rather strange ways. Dunn, a playwright, has a wonderful ear for dialogue; his rich and enticing prose, elegant structuring and wonderful attention to the smallest of details make this novel a delight. (Oct. 1) Forecast: Dunn's sophomore effort may have even more popular appeal than Ella Minnow Pea, which was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers title, a Top Ten Book Sense Pick and the recipient of a Borders Original Voices Award. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review
The feckless frolics of a Mississippi town fill the pages of Dunn's clever, comical second outing, which romps on the heels of his acclaimed Ella Minnow Pea (2001). The school of hard knocks is in session in Higby, but none of the knocks is ever quite a knockout. When teenager Clint, the minister's son still missing his mamma a couple of years after her death, falls off the town's rickety old water-tower when the catwalk gives way, he falls into a swimming pool and emerges with only bruises. His dad, Oren, doubts himself and his faith after Clint's mishap, but a chance encounter with the owner of Higby's massage parlor gives him something else to think about. Meanwhile, on her way to a party at Tie's house, a man she's admired from afar in church, Carmen Valentine trips over a crack in the sidewalk and scrapes the skin off half her face. Deciding to skip the party, she massively rear-ends Euless's pickup, which he's stopped along the road to help the Alzheimer's-befuddled brother of his mother's best friend. Carmen decides she might like Euless better than Tie, who has by now already begun to make out with his housemate Stewie's fiance, who is fed up with Stewie having recently dedicated his life to Christ. As for Euless, he's ashamed of his carnal feelings for Carmen and runs away when she takes him home. Stewie and his fiance, on the other hand, rediscover their passion for each other in a most unlikely place. And then there's the good-times sister of the ex-con's girlfriend who's kidnapped by a local religious cult. Characters largely conventional, slightly soulful, and just a bit off their nut are the tried-and-true formula of any wacky southern farce, but success here stems also from the delightful way so many lives are seamlessly made utterly interdependent.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.