The Book of CarolSue by Lynne Hugo

EXCERPT: I don’t mind telling you that my sister is a bit of a nutcase about making a Plan. And yes, it’s capital-P Plan. She got the trait from our grandmother who started each day by asking the nearest victim, ‘What’s the Plan?’ meaning a list of tasks the victim was going to accomplish for her with a precise time schedule by which they’d be accomplished. Louisa’s version is somewhat different. When she sees something she thinks needs to be fixed, she comes up with a Plan to fix it, and if God has something else in mind, well, I’ve got to say, it might be too bad for God because once Louisa’s head is down and she’s got her mind set, you might as well fasten your seatbelt because you’re going on her ride.

ABOUT THE BOOK OF CAROLSUE: CarolSue and her sister, Louisa, are best friends, but haven’t had much in common since CarolSue married Charlie, moved to Atlanta, and swapped shoes covered with Indiana farm dust for pedicures and afternoon bridge. Louisa, meanwhile, loves her farm and animals as deeply as she’d loved Harold, her late husband of forty years.

Charlie’s sudden death leaves CarolSue so adrift that she surrenders to Louisa’s plan for her to move back home. But canning vegetables and feeding chickens are alien to CarolSue, and she resolves to return to Atlanta–until Louisa’s son, Reverend Gary, arrives with an abandoned infant and a dubious story. He begs the women to look after the baby while he locates the mother–a young immigrant who fears deportation.

Keeping his own secrets, Gary enlists the aid of the sheriff, Gus, in the search. But CarolSue’s bond with the baby is undeniable, and she forms an unconventional secret plan of her own. How many mistakes can be redeemed?

MY THOUGHTS: I am always up for a book that isn’t centred around young, beautiful, rich people. Not that I have anything against them; indeed I aspire to be one. And The Book of CarolSue certainly meets that criteria. The two main characters, Louisa and CarolSue appear to be in their mid-sixties, now both widowed, CarolSue only recently. Louisa, as she is prone to do, takes charge and shepherds the bereft CarolSue ‘back home’. The trouble is, CarolSue feels like a fish out of water . . . and a gooseberry around her sister and the town sheriff, Gus, who like to ‘nap’ noisily in the afternoons.

I liked the feistyness of both these women who each have a strong sideline in sarcasm. But what started out charming and amusing deteriorated into tedious and repetitive by the 50% mark, and I finished the book feeling rather like a hampster trapped on it’s wheel. The book loses its focus on CarolSue and Louisa and becomes bogged down by the Gary/Gus/Church/embezzlement debacle, much to its detriment.

I’m afraid that this is another case of one book trying to cover too many issues – sisterhood, grief, love, loss, and family would have been enough, but the addition of immigration and illegal labour issues, con-men, and embezzlement only muddied the waters and overloaded the storyline.

The Book of CarolSue is actually the second in a proposed trilogy, the first of which is The Testament of Harold’s Wife, which focuses on Louisa and her loss. I have not read this, and I probably won’t. But The Book of CarolSue is easily read as a stand-alone and, in fact, is not promoted as part of a series.

Had the book continued on in the same vein as it started, this would have been an excellent read, but as it stands it only rates ⭐⭐.8 stars from me.

#TheBookofCarolSue #NetGalley

There are lots of little gems in here:
‘ . . . people disappeared, here to track mud on your clean floor and laugh when you complained about missing chocolate chip cookies one instant, dead the next, and you don’t get two weeks notice in the mail that it’s going to happen.’

‘Isn’t it strange how we think one thing is going to happen and something utterly different happens? Inside we are so disappointed and have no idea that life might just have handed us a huge gift.’

‘I’ve not only lost my marbles, but they’ve rolled way under the furniture never to be retrieved.’

‘Life does not follow clean lines, but ones that stagger. We limp along, trying to keep up, carrying baskets unevenly loaded with failures and regrets. We find our joys accidentally, unexpectedly, along the way and must cherish them. Cling to, remember, and cherish them.’

THE AUTHOR: Lynne Hugo is an American author whose roots are in the northeast. She lives with her husband, a former Vice President for Academic Affairs of a liberal arts college and now a professional photographer, in the Midwest. They have two grown children, three grandchildren, and a yellow Labrador retriever.

Ms. Hugo has taught creative writing to hundreds of schoolchildren through the Ohio Arts Council’s renowned Arts in Education program. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from Connecticut College, and a Master’s from Miami University.

When an editor asked her to describe herself as a writer, she responded:

“I write in black Wal-Mart capri sweatpants. They don’t start out as capris, but I routinely shrink them in the drier by accident. And I always buy black because it doesn’t show where I’ve wiped the chocolate off my hands. Now that my son and daughter are grown, my previous high grade of ‘below average’ in Domestic Achievement has dropped somewhat. But I’m less guilty about it now. I lose myself in crafting language by a window with birdfeeders hanging in the branches of a Chinese elm towering over the house. When I come up for air, I hike by the ponds and along the river in a nearby forest with my beloved Lab. My husband, with whom I planted that elm as a bare root sapling, joins us when he can.”

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Kensington Books for providing a digital ARC of The Book of CarolSue by Lynne Hugo for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Author: sandysbookaday

I love good quality chocolate. I love the ocean and love to be in, on or beside it. I read any and every where. I am a proud mum and Nana. I like wine, gin, Southern Comfort, a cold Heineken on a hot day. I am very versatile like that. I cross stitch, do jigsaws, garden, and work on a farm. I am an occasional scribbled. I have far too many books I want to read to ever find the time to die. I am an active member of Goodreads as Sandy *the world could end while I was reading and I would never notice* and review on Amazon under the name Sandyj21. My Goodreads reviews are automatically linked to my Facebook page. Groups I belong to and participate in on Goodreads include: The Mystery, Crime and Thriller Group; Mysteries and Crime Thrillers; Psychological Thrillers; Reading for Pleasure; Crime Detective Mystery Thrillers; English Mysteries; Dead Good Crime; Kindle English Mystery, All About Books and NZ Readers. April 2016 I made the Top 1% of Goodreads reviewers (As follows) Hello Sandy *The world could end while I was reading and I would never notice*, In our community of readers, you stand out in a notable way: You're one of the top 1% of reviewers on Goodreads! With every rave and every pan, with every excited GIF and every critical assessment, you've helped the Goodreads community get closer to a very important milestone – the 50 Million Reviews mark!

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