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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Mermaids in the Basement by Michael Lee West~★★

Author: Michael Lee West
Title: Mermaids in the Basement
Release Date: January 8th, 2008
Publisher: Harper
Genre: Southern Fiction

Book Jacket: "The beloved bestselling author of Crazy Ladies returns with a funny and poignant tale that explores the complex bonds between a daughter and her father. Reeling from the loss of her mother, plagued with a bad case of writer's block (and don't even talk about that extra twenty pounds), Renata DeChavannes feels as though everything is just plain wrong. And that was before the tabloids caught her sweetheart, filmmaker Ferg Lauderdale, sharing an intimate squeeze with Hollywood's hottest young tamale.But the granddaughter of the formidable Honora DeChavannes possesses more hell than belle in her backbone---and she's about to reclaim it. Heading south to Honora's home on the Gulf Coast, Renata is determined to stop feeling like a wilted gardenia and emerge as the unstoppable kudzu her beloved grandmother proudly proclaimed she would be: "I'll just tell you, Sherman may have burned the South, but kudzu will engulf it." But for that to happen Renata's got to face some not-so-genteel ghosts from her past, discover the truth about the mother she desperately misses, and make peace with the first man who abandoned her and broke her heart---her handsome and distant father."

Taryn's Review: I am a big fan of Michael Lee West's past books and was excited to see this newer book awaiting me on the bookshelf. I loved the cover on the front of the book and that only added to my excitement about settling into the book.

However, I was sorely disappointed with this book. It was nowhere as fun to read as West's other books, and to be honest, this book reminded me in some ways of The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood yet not nearly as good. While reading the book, the character of Renata acted like a spoiled brat after she believed the tabloid gossip about her boyfriend, who was currently in Ireland filming a movie as she mourned the death of her mother at a beach house in North Carolina. I understood the character lost her mother, but I think even those of us not in Hollywood understand that most of it is just gossip. 

Renata, overcome with her other problems, spun out of the control and finally ended up at her very wealthy grandmother's house in Point Clear, Alabama, where Gladys, the family maid also lived and Isabella d'Something, an actress-turned-Southern-housewife, lived next door. This is where the book doesn't make sense to me; why when Renata was going through so much, they decided now  was the time to open up the vault of secrets from the past and tell Renata the truth about her mother and father?

My other bone to pick with the book was after Renata's step-mother-to-be ended up floating unconscious in the koi pond, Renata's father actually accused Renata of hurting the woman. Uh, if my dad accused me of bashing his fiancee's head in and leaving her to die in a koi pond, I'm quite positive we'd never, ever, EVER, speak again. But Renata simply kept calling her father and didn't seem hurt at all by the accusation.

I guess overall I didn't understand why some characters were introduced (like Abigail). I didn't understand why things were withheld from Renata and it seemed to me that Renata should be able to remember some of the events that she claimed she must have "repressed" in her mind. I didn't really understand why Renata's dad went from being a good dad to an asshole, and then suddenly was back and accepted as great dad.

My last problem was with Isabella's habit of slipping medicine into foods in which other people were going to eat. I didn't find this funny, and I'd think after the many years Isabella had been doing this, someone would have gotten hurt or worse after being drugged. Amazingly, this seemed to be the first time someone got hurt from Isabella's drugging habit. I'm just not buying it, nor would I buy this book. If you must, pick it up at your library.

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