BOOKWORM: Life in Leaning Tree makes you feel at home

  • Posted: Friday, March 29, 2013 4:53 p.m.
"The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat

“The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat” by Edward Kelsey Moore, c. 2013, Alfred A. Knopf, $24.95/$28.95 Canada, 313 pages

All for one, and one for all.

That could’ve been the motto for you and your two best friends. Growing up, you were the Three Musketeers, sharing gossip, secrets, crushes, families and truths. Everybody knew that you three were close as paint on a wall, and, where there was one, the other two weren’t far away.

You were lucky to have those friends when you were young, and, if you’re lucky now, you’ve still got them around. As you’ll see in the new novel “The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat” by Edward Kelsey Moore, those longtime friends may be life’s best souvenir.

If it was Sunday after church, then everybody in Leaning Tree knew where they’d find Odette, Clarice and Barbara Jean: at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat. They’d been gathering there for 40-odd years but food wasn’t all they got.

The diner’s owner, Big Earl, had been like a father to just about everybody in town. He practically raised Odette’s husband, James, and he’d taken in Barbara Jean when her mother died. Big Earl was generous with advice and compliments and everybody loved him.

But now he was dead. Odette learned it from her mother, who came visiting in the middle of the night, along with a well-dressed white woman who seemed a little tipsy. Odette wasn’t surprised to see her Mama at that time of day. Ever since they’d buried Mama six years before, she’d been visiting Odette real often.

But Odette didn’t talk about that. No sense in worrying James, the love of her life for more than 30 years. No reason to make Clarice fret, since she had enough problems with a philandering husband. And since Barbara Jean carried loss heavy in her chest, there was no sense in stirring up bad memories.

Yes, Big Earl was dead, but life went on in Leaning Tree, Ind. Life went on, Clarice kept turning a blind eye on her husband’s affairs; Little Earl kept the All-You-Can-Eat running; Barbara Jean drank herself stupid every day, like she had for years; and Odette passed the time with those who’d passed on.

Until one day, Mama had something to say that Odette didn’t want to hear…

Have you ever read a book that made you feel so at home that you never wanted it to end? Yep, that’s what reading “The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat” is like: comfortable from the first page, delightful to the last.

Author Edward Kelsey Moore made me laugh out loud in parts of this book with characters that are snide and sarcastic, strong yet delicate. Then he turned around and made me feel bad for what was coming. I loved his turns of phrase and his sense of humor, and I loved the fact that he made me forget that his characters weren’t flesh-and-blood. Overall, I just plain loved this book.

If you’ve ever had a friend (or two) that you knew better than you know yourself, then you need to share this book. “The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat” is great for one, but better for all.

Terri Schlichenmeyer has been a professional book reviewer for more than a decade. She lives in Wisconsin.

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