Thursday, May 22, 2008

Lookin' Back Texas

Did a song start running through your head when you read that title? If it doesn't ring a bell, play the video, then come back. I'll wait for you. When that book arrived in the mailbox a few weeks ago, immediately Waylon Jennings started singing in my head. And every time I even thought about the book or looked at it, he started all over again. I have a confession to make: I grew up with the Highwaymen. My parents had their music on 8 track, and we listened to it in our 1976 Dodge Charger (blue with black stripes on the side). It didn't get much cooler than that in 1978. Dad had Willie Nelson's The Red Headed Stranger on LP, and I remember looking through all of the drawings inside trying to make sense of the story. The first time I ever heard Hey Jude was Jessi Coulter's (Jennings' wife) version. When I was about Mia's age, we would go out into the woods to chop wood for the stove. Mom and Dad would have me sing to keep the bears away. My song of choice was always Mama Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys (apparently my singing voice was so awful, it even frightened wild animals). While Mom and Dad weaned me on The Beatles and KISS, we also spent plenty of time with the Highwaymen. I'm hoping now that I've finished the book, I can put the song to rest. It worked that way with Melody Carlson's These Boots Weren't Made For Walking...oh wait, Nancy Sinatra just started growling in my head.

Lookin' Back Texas by Leanna Ellis is a startling look at the damage a lie can do to a marriage and a life. Susannah Mullins is going home to attend her father's funeral. But he's not dead. Susannah's mother Betty Lynne is so angry at his leaving her, that she has pronounced him dead and bought the casket. Susannah has returned to her hometown of Luckenbach, Texas in years, and when she does, old friendships and rivalries are quickly re-ignited. But trouble really starts when her husband Mike and son Oliver come to town exposing a secret Susannah had kept in the depth of her heart for over sixteen years. Ellis has a real ear for dialogue making it zing with humor and cut with truth. Many of the characters are typical fiction: small town=quirky, but Susannah and her family are real and multi-faceted. She's very angry with her mother, but can't help seeing those same flaws in her own life. She's tried so hard to be completely different that her mom, but they are both hiding secrets and desperately trying to control everything around them to keep those secrets from spilling out. Ellis doesn't go overboard on the Christian aspect of the book; it's important to Susannah, but she knows that her faith doesn't make her perfect nor does it stop her from sinning. I truly enjoyed this book about faith and family.

Gas hit $4.00 a gallon here today. Of course just before Memorial Day weekend. Jesse's going to Sun Prairie to spend the weekend with his brother, Dave. Me and my gas-guzzling van are going to stay close to home.