Dear Ms Brockway,
In 2006 you gave us “Hot Dish” set in upper Minnesota. This year you return us to Fawn Creek, MN. Well specifically to a 4th rate lake not too far from Fawn Creek where the Olson clan has had a beach compound, if we want to get grandiose with our terms, for generations. It’s not much but it’s been home to almost 100 years of the family, their spouses, children, ex-spouses, children from second marriages, cousins, aunts, uncles, heck anybody who wants to come. I’ll be honest and say that this trip didn’t work quite as well for me as the previous one did. Less humor, I think and I had to work a little to like the heroine, Mimi Olson and the hero Joe Tierney.
For Mimi Olson Chez Ducky, as the family place is fondly known, has been her refuge from her demanding mother and from life in general. I understand that Mimi is the type of person who wants to let the world just slide on by with the least amount of effort. Heck, I have those moments myself. And as I get older I can appreciate the idea of not wanting to sweat everything. But when Mimi just sits there and does nothing when the family begins to talk about selling the property due to the influx of rich people to the area which has driven up the price of real estate, I did get annoyed. The place means so much to her, something she acknowledges early on, that to just do nothing, ignore the information her cousin and aunt send her about the impending sale, just sat wrong with me.
I “got” that Mimi has issues with the fact that her slacker father left her at Chez Ducky and disappeared 30 years ago and that this “ties” the place to Mimi while at the same time making her want to be like her father and just let the world flow by…but…but…it takes her a long damn time to finally wake up and decide to do something. On the other hand, I laughed at how her young neighbor, the rich, reclusive Prescott Tierney, set her up as some kind of wise, serene, tidy, loving zen woman. And on her interactions with his dogs after she has to take over them when Pres breaks his ankle. I like that she doesn’t cave into the pressure from her mother and overachieving younger half-sisters to “get a real job” or “exert herself” just to prove something to and for them. And like Jenn Lind from “Hot Dish” I think you’ve created a heroine with flaws and I applaud that she still has some of them by the end of the book.
Joe Tierney, neat/control freak that he is, is a hero who isn’t horrible, who I liked but who never really came alive for me. He seemed to be there just to be someone to prove things to Mimi. To act, with his problems with his son, as a means for her to work out her own issues with her father and mother and family. His neatness was a foil for her carefree housekeeping, his skepticism about her job and whether or not she was fleecing Pres merely things to make her examine her own life regardless of the fact that she was satisfied with her findings. Their realization of love just sort of seemed to drift into being which might be more realistic but which lacked any spark to keep it in my mind and mushily remember it after finishing the book.
As for Prescott, the Olsons and Mimi’s mother’s family — whew. I’m glad that the more down to earth and normal Olsons seem to be grounding the hyperachieving, mega intelligent Prescott and Mimi’s two half-sisters. Those three are scary. And from being welcomed myself into an extended family like the Olsons, I can attest that there are clans out there who warmly welcome spouses and children of second marriages, God love them.
So while I can appreciate the flawed characters you created and the family dynamics behind them, this is one crew who didn’t quite pluck my heartstrings and who didn’t entertain me as much as the black comedy I found in “Hot Dish.” C+