Reviewed by Georgina Donlea
Best friends Odette, Clarice, and Barbara Jean have been locally known as The Supremes since their teenage years in their small hometown in southern Indiana. Now in their mid fifties, the women still continue their ritual of visiting the All-You-Can-Eat diner every Sunday after church. The book skips between their adolescence in the 1960s and life in the 21st century. Memories form childhood and stories of family, ambition, love, and loss, all contribute to a satisfyingly compelling tale of three women who are forever bonded by the unconditional strength of friendship.
In his debut novel, Edward Kelsey Moore has created a lively array of characters. Tough, fearless Odette has never been afraid to speak her mind or stand up for what she believes in, but now finds herself facing a personal crisis that challenges even her own infamous strength. Long-suffering Clarice finally starts to question the unfulfilled life she leads with her serially philandering husband. Beautiful Barbara Jean is struggling with a terrible secret that has been eating away at her for years. Moore is impressively good at tapping into the world of women in a very realistic way, without the pink and fluffy clichés that many men seem to assume afflict the female gender. His male characters are well written too, and even the morally questionable ones are well rounded enough to be not only believable, but often likeable too.
Having previously lived in Kentucky, and with memories of the many happy days I spent in southern Indiana during that time of my life, I was drawn to The Supremes at Earls All-You-Can-Eat because of my own personal history. While it did not end up offering me any real personal connection to that time or place, I found it to be a pleasant read that provoked a few laughs and tears along the way. I was not addicted to it in the sense of feeling desperation to pick up at every opportunity, but enjoyed reading it at a relaxed steady pace. Throughout most of the book I was planning on giving it a respectable three star rating. Then towards the end there is a thoroughly entertaining wedding that is brilliantly well written, and which really made me laugh. The next chunk of the book focuses on a heart-wrenching hospital stint in which the life of one of the main characters hangs by a thread. Reading these two sections side-by-side shows an impressive ability for a writer to display a talent for both humour and sadness, and this alone upped my overall rating to four stars.
As already mentioned, the strength of friendship is the undeniable undercurrent of The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat. However, the matter of race relations is also tackled, with the despicable villain of the book being Desmond Carlson, a white racist drunken bully. A secret young interracial couple is torn apart by fear that the society of the ‘60s would rather see them dead than in love. Religion is also discussed, but to a lesser extent, and with the sense of humour associated with it that Edward Kelsey Moore is so good at. (Especially note the comical chapter of the stripper-turned-Christian.)
The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat offers a few little quirks that make it unique and memorable, such as the inclusion of former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. She may have died in 1962, but she is very much a character in the modern-day parts of this book. Strange, yes, but read it and this will make sense!
Nudge Reviewer Rating:
Georgina graduated in 2003 with a BA (Hons) in American Studies from King Alfred’s College (now the University of Winchester). The experience proved tremendously influential in the literary interests that still exist for her today. Postmodern fiction is her favourite genre, and the Apollo era of the Cold War is her favourite historical subject to read about. In further pursuit of a passion for writing, Georgina was awarded a diploma in Freelance Journalism in 2012.
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