Monday, July 27, 2009

"The Fixer Upper" by Mary Kay Andrews

MKA has returned to her roots, and I'm happy to report that this is one of those can't-hardly-put-it-down books. YES! I've really enjoyed her work, even the less-than-stellar "Deep Dish", so I was happy to see she had a new book coming out. Even better was a return to the theme of interior design, something that MKA is very well versed in.

Our story begins with Dempsey Killebrew having the worst day of her life. Her boss, Alex Hodder, is now part of a D.C. political scandal; the FBI and others are accusing him of hiring hookers for a prominent figure while on a "fact-finding" missing. Worse yet, it appears that Alex is all too willing to throw Dempsey under the bus, since those "ladies" were hired by her and paid for with her company Amex card. When she tries to contact Alex, not only are her calls not returned, the office manager tells her that the boss has decided she needs to take her 4 weeks of vacation, now, and they'll send everything in her office to her apartment. Yep, Dempsey has been dumped. From her job, from her life in D.C., from everything she's worked so hard to get.

Enter her parents. Lynda wants her to head out to California and regroup there with her and her "boyfriend" Leonard. Lynda also wants to makeover Dempsey - her hair, her clothes, her choice of career. And Dempsey's father, Mitch, isn't much better. He's furious that this scandal is tarnishing his good name, and his solution is to hide his daughter in Guthrie, Georgia. Oh, she'll be working for Mitch, too, restoring the old family homestead that his last living relative left to him, much to his chagrin. Birdsong was once a beautiful Southern plantation, and despite the fact that quite a bit of the land has been sold off, Mitch is sure that with a little elbow grease and some new paint, he can "flip" the house and get rid of it.

If only it were going to be that easy. When Dempsey shows up, she finds something more like "Bird Droppings" - a dilapidated, Pepto-Bismol pink behemoth of a money pit. She also finds Ella Kate, a distant cousin, who is in her 80s and has no intention of going anywhere. To make matters worse, Guthrie is tiny, and everyone seems to know Dempsey's business within hours. She's ready to throw in the towel and run for the hills, but the house starts to grow on her. So do the Berryhills, Carter and his son Tee. They'll play an important role in Dempsey's redemption story, as will several other of Guthrie's townsfolk.

It's a fabulous story, and it's got all the elements that first drew me to MKA's work. There are wonderful characters that just seem to come alive; you feel like you've meet these people before (especially if you live in a small Southern town!). The plot moves along at a nice pace, and it unfolds just the way you want it to. And then there's Dempsey herself, a bit naive (OK, just plain silly at times in the beginning), but a truly good person with a good heart. She's the real "fixer-upper" of this book, and she's going to turn out just fabulous as Birdsong. Do yourself a huge favor and find a copy of this book; it's a perfect summer read.

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