That readers who pick up Battle's (Bed & Breakfast) eighth novel, with its folksy, long Southern title, will expect something along the lines of the Ya-Yas is understandable; what awaits is, in fact, a considerably more sober affair. At age 50, Bonnie Duke Cullman has run out of luck. Accustomed since birth to a country-club existence, she's divorcing her no-good husband, who's just filed for bankruptcy, and striking out on her own. Never having had a serious job before, she accepts a position at a community college in Florabama, Ala.--a position that, she later learns to her dismay, her father was instrumental in securing for her. A lingerie mill called Cherished Lady is being closed down, the work to be farmed out south of the border, and the college has hired Bonnie to run its program for displaced homemakers and workers. In a blind-leading-the-blind proposition, Bonnie is supposed to help the other women, many of whom are also middle-aged, figure out what to do with the rest of their lives--patient, religious Ruth wants to be a teacher; irascible, racist Hilly takes a job as a waitress in a Mexican restaurant. At times the novel feels like a stage set hammered together to support its pro-education message, but it compensates with likable characters and a core of compassion and independence. (Mar. 19) Forecast: A regional author tour will reinforce the novel's mostly local appeal, though its clever title may cause readers around the country to give the book a glance.
Reviewed on: 03/01/2001 Release date: 03/01/2001 Genre: Fiction