cover image The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove

The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove

Susan Gregg Gilmore, Crown/Shaye Areheart, $23 (256p) ISBN 978-0-307-39503-0

Gilmore's lackluster second effort (after Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen) never manages to find its way out of humdrum territory. In 1960s Nashville, Bezellia Grove, the darling teenage daughter of an important family, has a henpecked father who spends all his time at work, and a status-obsessed mother who has no problem verbally savaging Maizelle Cooper and Nathaniel Stephenson, the black hired help whom Bezellia considers kin. Everyone is alarmed when obvious sparks fly between Bezellia and Nathaniel's son, Samuel; though Bezellia loves him, they are kept apart, and when Bezellia's not shielding her younger sister from their mother's drunken rages, she frolics with Ruddy Semple, a young man from the wrong sort of family. After Bezellia heads to college and her horizons are expectedly expanded, fortunes are lost and secrets are revealed, some entirely out of left field and others without narrative purpose. This very mixed bag contains just about every half-baked trope of Southern women's fiction, but it doesn't do anything new with the material. (Aug.)