cover image Sugarland


Joni Rodgers. Spinsters Ink Books, $12 (346pp) ISBN 978-1-883523-32-9

The girl-power quotient runs high in Rodgers's alternately wrenching and humorous follow-up to her debut, Crazy for Trying, a finalist for the 1996 Barnes & Noble Discover Award. The daughters of a show biz-minded mother, Kit and Kiki Smithers spent their Texas youth entertaining at county fairs and state penitentiaries under the name of the Sugar Babes. Having loved the glamour of glitzy costumes and cheering audiences, Kit and Kiki find adult domesticity in honky-tonk Texas less than satisfying. Pregnant with her third child, Kiki is reluctant to leave her abusive, philandering husband, and all the verbal foreplay Kit's gone-to-fat husband can muster is ""Mmm. You smell good. Like pancakes."" Kiki's brief return to her performing artist roots is curtailed by the tornado that threatens her children's lives and seals the fate of her troubled marriage. Meanwhile, Kit has two quickie flings, resulting in a pregnancy of questionable paternity. Readers with true equality of the sexes on their minds may object that Kiki's husband's cheating is treated as an actionable offense while Kit's marital excursions are permitted the luxury of mitigating circumstances. Rodgers's strength, however, is her knack for realistic characters who show their faults un-self-consciously. The country-western twang of her prose salts the heartache she's not afraid to show with a womanly, wise, laugh-through-the-tears appreciation of life. (May) FYI: Rodgers grew up as a performer in a family of bluegrass/gospel musicians and was the first deejay in Helena, Mont.