This debut novel was a delightful trip down memory lane. If you remember fried Spam and Tang for breakfast, you'll love this novel. If you're too young to remember ducktail haircuts, read this novel and be introduced to an era we Baby Boomers remember well.
The setting is the early 1960s Eden Hill, Kentucky. A small town where everybody knows everybody else. The peacefulness of the town is tested when a young couple shows up and the husband buys a vacant lot and begins the process for building a franchise service station. It will be right across the street from Virgil's old service station that's been there for years.
How Virgil and the rest of Eden Hill accommodate this intrusion makes for a fine novel. Virgil struggles with it. Is he to compete or is he to be a good neighbor? He knew times were changing but was unsure what to do about it. How was he to obey God's command to be a good neighbor yet provide for his own family?
Virgil is just one of the many characters in this novel that tug at your heart. There is a Baptist pastor who loves the people of the town yet faces a quandary. When all is not right in Eden Hill, should he meddle? There is a crotchety old church member who complains about everything. There are farmers and storekeepers. There is Virgil's wife, a woman trying to make her way through a time of change and modernity. There is the young, would be service station owner with a wife and newborn daughter.
The novel brings out many issues of the day. Franchise businesses were getting popular in a time when owning your own business was the American dream. Some of the parent companies would burden their franchise owners with huge financial debts. More generic issues include arrogance, compassion, and racial tension.
There are some funny times in this novel too. Virgil's wife loves to try new recipes. She makes a casserole of cauliflower, rutabagas, eggplant, tomatoes, and zucchini. On top? Coconut and whipped cream. The cornstarch package showing the recipe on the side panel said it could also be served as dessert. Only in the 60s!
This is a rewarding nostalgic journey to a time when women made their own clothes, gas sold for under thirty cents a gallon, and neighbors helped one another. I recommend it to those who like the Mitford novels or ones similar.
You can find out more about the book and read the first chapter here.
My rating: 5/5 stars.
Bill Higgs is a former engineer and avid storyteller. He lives in Kentucky with his wife, author Liz Curtis Higgs. This is his first novel.
Tyndale House, 400 pages.
I received a complimentary egalley of this novel from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.