book of the week – 5.25.21

Sometimes you just want a fun read. Something easy and funny but also moving and maybe a little profound. This week’s pick is Charms for the Easy Life by Kaye Gibbons. She also wrote Ellen Foster, which is, well, not so much fun, but also profound and really well done. It’s also worth a read but it’s got a completely different tone from Charms for the Easy Life.

As I’ve been working on my second attempt at a novel, I’ve returned to Charms more than once to study it. And every time I pick it up to take note of the characterization or the style or the arc of the story, I have a hard time putting it down. It’s about three generations of women — grandmother, mother, daughter — living together during the 1940s. I’ve read it at least twice and when I first started pondering one of the characters for my own story, I thought “I’d like her to have a little bit of Charlie Kate in her.”

Charms for the Easy Life

Charlie Kate is the grandmother. She is eccentric and weird and wonderfully strange and full of gumption and I can only hope to write a character as endearing and as awesome and as frustrating as her. She performs dental surgery without a license, teaches the local teenagers about sex and the neighborhood families how to use an indoor toilet. This would make the perfect summer read. Grab a copy (you won’t have to fight for it — it was published in 1993) and run away to Beale Street in South Carolina for a bit. You won’t regret it.