Monday, April 15, 2019

Mr. & Mrs. American Pie

Title:  Mr. & Mrs. American Pie
Author:  Juliet McDaniel
Publication Information:  Inkshares. 2018. 350 pages.
ISBN:  1942645864 / 978-1942645863

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "All I can think about is escape."

Favorite Quote:  "I'm the sort of girl who takes a basket of lemons and says, 'Thank you, God, for this opportunity to make some delicious lemonade."

The year is 1969. Maxine Hortence Simmons is a wealthy, Palm Spring socialite; she is constantly seeking to climb the next step on the social ladder. If she can skip a few and land even higher, all the better. Her days are about making the right connections, about wearing the right outfits, and about making the right social choices. Life is all about being seen and notices. She thinks she and her hus husband Douglas are in this together.

It turns out Douglas is not. The opening of the book ends Maxine's life as Douglas asks for a divorce. Out of the divorce, Maxine ends up relegated to a small condo in Scottsdale with some money and a car. She lives a good life as some would define it. She, however, does not think so. Her goal - to get back - back to Palm Springs and back at the society that has ostracized her.

Robert owns and operates a tavern in Scottsdale. He seemingly lives a simple life all alone. It turns out that there is a secret reason behind that life alone.

Charles "Chuck" Bronski is a little boy who lives in the same condo complex as Maxine. He has an even younger sister Dawn. He also has a mother who seems to have priorities other than her children. It turns out that Chuck and Dawn need taking care of.

This rag tag group becomes a "family." You might ask how and why? It turns out that it is all part of Maxine's plan to jumpstart her return to Palm Spring. It is all part of a context to appear as a "normal" family that may appeal to the judges of the Mrs. American Pie contest. "Our fake will at least be realistic."

Parts of this book are funny. The story proceeds from episode to episode of Maxine's decisions in her quest to return triumphant to the society from which she has been banished. The story is told in alternating chapters from three perspectives - Maxine, Robert, and Chuck. Alternating perspectives work in some stories; that technique does not work for me in this story. Robert and Chuck have their own back stories and quirkiness. Robert has a part of himself he wishes to keep secret. Chuck wants to be a spy, and he is the best at taking care of his sister. However, since Maxine's story is the central focus, their stories appear as filler but a bit too much filler.

More than half of the book also tells the story of the Mrs. American Pie contest - the decorating challenge, the ironing clothes challenge, the pretense at the perfect family, the neighborly meals challenge, the budgeting and shopping challenge, and so on. Sadly, there is also included a bathing suit challenge, which in theory should have no relevance to being the "best" wife and mother. The first half of the book is fast paced, from Maxine's meltdown in Palm Springs to her formation of her "family" in Arizona. The second half, focused on the pageant, slows down considerably.

The book ends as you might expect - or at least how I expect from the very beginning. The book is a sometimes funny, sometimes long story with a sweet, feel-good ending.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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