Monday, October 1, 2012
Damaged Goods by Alexandra Allred
From the blurb:
When Joanna Lucas moves to a small town to escape a scandal and a scoundrel, she finds herself in trouble again when she befriends a stripper-turned-Mormon, a one-legged woman thanks to a loose tiger, and a dirty-minded troublemaker with a love of inane questions, and they take on an industrial town. Erin Brockovich has nothing on these ladies! Prepare to laugh out loud and cheer them on as they set out to right a terrible wrong . . . no matter how outlandish things get.
I read the blurb prior to accepting this book as an ARC from the publisher and thought I was in for a humorous little chicklit book similar to The Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Boy, was I wrong. Not about the humor, because there's riotous laughing to be had inside, but this book went far beyond chicklit and tackled some heavy issues that reminded me of Erin Brockovich.
I enjoyed this book. It's basically a David vs. Goliath story, and you can't help but cheer for the underdog, especially since the underdog in this case are a few strong-willed women, with Goliath being represented by some good old boys who try to keep the women in their place. And thankfully fail.
The book opens with Joanna Lucas and her husband, a wealthy business man, driving to a wedding in the Hamptons. The marriage is a bit rocky, and Joanna is more of a trophy wife than anything else. She asks him to stop so she can go to the bathroom, but he brushes her off. This costs him dearly once they arrive, where Joanna gathers her courage, fueled by anger, and hands him an offensive object in front of the other wedding guests, effectively announcing the end of their marriage. I cheered for her - her act of defiance was utterly brilliant. Crude, but brilliant nonetheless.
Beaten down, but strong against the adversity, Joanna and her attorney hammer out a deal in which she gets a large house in a small Texas town, plus the money to finance the required renovations. When she moves to Texas, this book really starts taking off as we are introduced to the cast of characters that populate the town, which harbors a dirty secret.
The author does a great job of introducing the main female characters with a lot of tongue-in-cheek, but makes them all rather likable. They all have their little idiosyncrasies, some more than others.
And like most small Texas towns, people are initially wary of the newcomer, but still friendly enough to help her and/or warn her about things. Well, most of them.
After Joanna begins construction, she gets pulled more and more into the ongoing battle between a rather outspoken group of women and the local cement company that is slowly poisoning the town. Babies are dying or born with severe health issues. People are getting sick and die. And the EPA appears to be deep in the pockets of the company, and questions are being squashed.
What threw me initially were the POV changes. Most of the book is told from the 3rd person omniscient narrator, except for the part of Joanna's one-legged neighbor, which is in the 1st person POV. I didn't quite understand the point of that, and I don't think that really added to the story.
Ms. Allred creates a great cast of characters, including some of ethnic minority, one of which becomes a love interest for Joanna, even though the story doesn't actually focus on their quiet but steady romance. Joanna finds common ground with the group of women, all of which either are considered or consider themselves "damaged goods". I appreciated the growth of her character throughout the book, and cheered for her when she found the courage to stand up for what she believed in, no matter how much the men around her try to beat her down.
Without giving too much of the plot away, if you liked Erin Brockovich and appreciate a good dose of humor, including a beer-addicted Emu, this book is for you.
I received a free ARC directly from the publisher. A positive review was not promised in return.
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Until next time,