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November 24, 2020

The Book of CarolSue by Lynne Hugo ~ a Review

by Susan Roberts

Charlie was already dead when I finally hung up with my sister and came in from the porch. The twilight had settled around me like a sticky damp quilt, but the sky had held the glowing embers of the day and was lovely, so I'd stayed out. "Charlie, honey," I said as I glanced at him, irritated as any wife would be, "you've dropped a hunk of pie into your lap. I can't get blueberry out of khaki. Don't touch it while I go get napkins." (p. 1)
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The Book of CarolSue
August 2020; Kensington; 978-1496725677
audio, ebook, print (320 pages); women's fiction
I really enjoy reading books with older main characters and I love reading books about sisters so this was a win-win for me.  Sisters Louisa and Carol Sue are in their 70s and even though they are alike in some ways, they are very different.  Louisa has always been content to live and work on the family farm.  She is pretty set in her ways and is happiest in messy old clothes working in her garden.  CarolSue had married and moved to Atlanta more than 20 years earlier.  She enjoys dressing well, playing bridge and having lunch with her friends.

As the story begins, CarolSue's husband has just died.  The first person she calls is her sister and Louisa gets there the next day.  Even though CarolSue isn't sure what to do with her life, Louisa convinces her to go home to Indiana and live on the family farm.  It's a very different lifestyle for her but she reluctantly agrees.  When she gets to Indiana, she realizes that Louisa's method of getting over grief is to keep busy - working in the garden, feeding the chickens and other farm duties.  CarolSue has about decided to go home when her nephew, Gary, shows up with a baby that he claims belongs to one of his church members and he asks his mom and aunt to babysit until he finds the mother.  Well - there is way more to that story than I am going to tell you in this review but the important thing is that they both love taking care of the baby and learn to love her.

There are a lot of funny moments in this novel.  Louisa has named all of her chickens and talks to them while she lets them wander around in the house.  She fixes her special tea once a day - tea mixed with whiskey and when her boyfriend, Gus, who is also sheriff, comes to visit they take naps together - which are way more than naps. Louisa also has a straightforward way of looking at the world which is humorous at times.  In many ways, she tries to be a tough old lady but she really has a heart of gold that she keeps hidden from everyone but her sister.  She and her son never see eye-to-eye, she doesn't understand his life of being a preacher (and doesn't mind telling him) but she helps him out every chance she gets and was willing to take the baby for a day, that became a month and to keep the baby hidden from Gus (which caused an end to their 'naps' for a while).

"Can I tell her that life does not follow clean lines, but ones that stagger. We limp along, trying to keep up, carrying baskets unevenly loaded with failures and regrets.  We find our joys accidently, unexpectedly, along the way and must cherish them.  Cling to,  remember and cherish them." (loc2254)

The Book of CarolSue deals with more than sisters learning to live together -- it's also about grief, fear of the future, family, and love.  It also touches on illegal immigrants and the way they are treated.  Overall it's a wonderful story of two sisters coping with life and learning to reach out and change their attitudes when needed.  It's a fun book to read and I hope that there is a third book in the future.  I'm not ready to say goodbye to these sisters.

This is book 2 in a trilogy.  Book 1 was The Testament of Harold's Wife. See review here. I suggest reading The Testament of Harold's Wife before reading The Book of CarolSue for maximum enjoyment.

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  1. I'm really curious about this story line as I just featured a book that takes place in the 70's as well and someone has just died also. I haven't started mine yet Hope you enjoy this one.

  2. Sounds like a rich family story with a mix of happiness and sadness.

  3. I love the sound of this one! Thanks for sharing, and here's mine: “I WAS TOLD IT WOULD GET EASIER”

  4. I really do enjoy books with older characters. I have to add this one to my list.

  5. A nice review! Incidentally, I love the cover of this book, from what you say about the novel it seems to nicely capture the feel of what is inside.