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REVIEW: Practical Purposes by Yeva Wiest

Dear Ms. Wiest,

I have Mrs. Giggles to thank for clueing me in to this black comedy. Though I don’t think it’s quite as side splittingly hilarious as Mrs. G finds it, it is quite funny. I do agree with her statement that it’s the Coen brothers meets small town Texas meets gay comedy. As well, it’s best to check your PC hat and coat at the door before settling down to read it.

The opening scene is one of the funniest, as well as one of the most descriptive, I’ve read in ages. Little 84 year old Miss Odessa, camped out in her brown recliner with her shotgun laid across her lap as she waits for the sorry ass bastard who’s trying to sneak up on her in the dead of night to steal her Social Security money. Her dog Bucky snapping and snarling as he yanks at his chain to get loose. Miss Odessa calling out, "You want my check, you white mother-fucker? Then you better have the balls to come and get it!" right before she blasts away with the double barreled shotgun and, uh, puts an end to Jeff Lawton’s career in crime. I was truly sorry to have her presence in the book end with the collapse of her roof after Bucky pulls the porch column loose in his attempt to nail the second thief.

But then things got really interesting as Odessa’s brother, a cold bastard if there ever was one, notifies his disgraced son, the doctor, of her death. But James Cole, MD turns out to be just as strong a character as his father, the Ag teacher at the local high school. James faced up to his father’s disapproval of his gay lifestyle years ago. He’s quite happy with his transplanted NY Irish Catholic lover Zachary O’Boyle though not happy at the thought of the funeral to come. What with having 14 Baptist ministers in the family (“Fourteen Black Baptist Preachers! Someone could either get saved or he could get himself killed, and Leopold Pricewater had a good idea which fate might be awaiting James Cole, Jr. and his queer doctor self.”), he knows he’s in for a hell of a lot of censure yet even he can’t imagine what’s in store for him when he arrives in Salem, Texas.

Yes, indeed. James Cole, Sr has a welcoming party waiting for his son, even if he doesn’t bring “that white boy” with him. And it’ll take the combined skill and bravery of Tallulah Pricewater – who can fix any plumbing problem and yearns for the driver of the weekly Dollar General delivery truck, Donnie Burke – who’s highest ambition ought not to be more than a store manager at the Dollar General, Mrs. Dollie Cole – who has the strength to love her son and be happy he’s found his soul mate as well as a keen aim with a gun and Zach O’Boyle (“Zach rarely called his mother, but on Thursday morning he decided it was high time. For one thing, he needed fashion advice. What did an upwardly mobile homosexual Irish Catholic wear to his black lover’s aunt’s funeral in a small East Texas town called Salem?”) who has the foresight to buy a handgun – for Practical Purposes – even if he doesn’t know how to load it.

She pulled Zach into a hug and patted his back like he was her little boy.

"Calm down, son," she said in her soft southern lilt. "We can’t find James if we lose our minds, now, can we?" She shushed and patted. Finally, Zachary calmed down.

He looked around the room and at his companions. They were certainly a motley crew. A retired schoolteacher with a gunshot wound on her shoulder, a weird guy with coke-bottle thick glasses and very yellow teeth, a butch lesbian with an attitude, and himself-‘Mr. Fashion with Gucci shoes and a gun he didn’t know how to shoot.

"Lord, look at us. James is going to die," he said.

"He is not," Tallulah declared. "Let’s go find him."

There are some POV shifts that might have been better handled, though I was never at a loss as to which characters were in a scene, and some other technical issues listed by Book Uptopia Mom that it would have been nice to have had cleared up and taken care of. But as a rip roaring, nonstop tear through small town bigoted USA of 1977 – plus guns – I’ve never seen its equal. But one question. Did Tallulah ever hook up with Lena Mae?


This book can be purchased in ebook format.

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.


  1. DS
    Oct 02, 2008 @ 16:51:30

    This is also available for Amazon Kindle. I don’t know why I am reading so many m/m books these days, but I think it’s Dear Author’s fault– this is the third one I’ve bought recently after reading a review here.

  2. Jayne
    Oct 02, 2008 @ 18:56:45

    DS, I’m also reading more m/m fiction due to the other reviews we’ve had here so look for some more reviews from me.

  3. Val Kovalin
    Oct 02, 2008 @ 22:28:13

    Jayne, I’m thrilled you’re going to be reviewing more m/m fiction! I’ll look for more of your reviews as well. This particular book sounds fun. I’ll have to put it on the to-buy list!

  4. Jayne
    Oct 03, 2008 @ 06:39:07

    Val, the book is definitely one of a kind.

    I’ve got 2 more m/m reviews done but don’t know when they’ll be posted. Stay tuned. ;)

  5. Ann Somerville
    Oct 04, 2008 @ 21:45:46

    I bought this on the strength of your review, but the technical issues bothered me a lot more than it did you. There was definitely brilliance there, but the lack of mature writing skills – and the atrocious editing – obscured it. Damn shame really. It was a pleasure to see someone break out of the mould in the m/m genre, and I hope she polishes her craft to the point where we don’t have to wince at the bad stuff while admiring the excellent ideas.

  6. Jayne
    Oct 05, 2008 @ 08:06:01

    Ann, I agree that it has moments of brilliance and moments when I winced but overall it worked for me. I’ve never read anything else from Lyrical Press so I’m not sure if the blame is the editing along with the writing or just the writing.

    One thing I did like about Lyrical is the fact that for one price, you get 4 different formats downloaded at once.

    West has some other books out that can be purchased at Fictionwise including a f/f historical.

  7. Gail Dayton
    Oct 16, 2008 @ 15:47:29

    The dog on the cover looks almost exactly like my grand-dog. Dolly is a brindle, though–looks almost tiger-striped. But I think she’d be more likely to lick a thief to death–or scare him–than bite him. ( –scroll to the bottom, if you want to see.) Hmm. I might look at it. I lived in small town Texas in 1977. And for about 25 years after. Galveston is small town Texas, but it doesn’t count. It’s VERY gay friendly.

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