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The Early Birds by Laurie Graham - Review

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Can you remember back in October I reread The Future Homemakers of America by Laurie Graham, because I had heard there was a sequel out and wanted to reread the original book - which had meant a lot to me in my late teens - before I read the sequel so that I remembered the story. I was happy that the book held up to being as good as I remembered, and I knew I wanted to get to the sequel early in 2019.

So I picked it up this last week, hoping it was as good. It is! I loved it, I'm giving it a solid nine out of ten. It made me laugh out loud a few times, which is unusual for me. Maybe I read sad books, I don't know.

Anyway, the story picks up about ten years after The Future Homemakers, when 1999 is about to turn into the new millennium. We left Peggy, the narrator of everyone's lives, living in Texas with her friends Grice and Tucker. Grice used to work for Peggy in her wedding planning business, and she eventually moved in with them and Tucker's mother, Miss Lady.

Miss Lady is already dead and at the beginning of this book Tucker dies. With no legalities formalising Grice and Tucker's relationship, a cousin of Tucker's moves in and demands the house, leaving Grice and Peggy homeless.

But Peggy's ex-husband Vern has Alzheimer's disease and their daughter Crystal is struggling to care for him up in Maine. Peggy and Grice decide to move up there to help look after him. When they do, they find Vern forgetting who they are but able to remember all of the US airbases, and his stepson Eugene who is obsessed with the end of the world. He is building a bunker for when the Shit Hits the Fan. Then 9/11 happens and he becomes a conspiracy theorist about it.

Peggy is still in touch with Lois and Herb from the air base, and with Kath, her friend from Norfolk who ended up coming to America to care for her nephew, Lois' son Kirk. She's married to Slick. Peggy also tries to keep up with Audrey, who always wanted her husband to make colonel, and with Gayle, the youngest of them on the air base, who is now an evangelical healer. The book is the same chatty, pithy, complicated hurtle through as the first one, and I loved it.

I really want to read another book of Laurie Graham's now - I think I have one hanging around actually - because I'd love to see what her style is like outside of these characters. I think she does funny really well, but also does sentimentality well, without dropping into triteness, and tragedy really well.

Betty died in the first book so she couldn't be in this one, which I felt was a total shame, I missed her. I found it really weird to be reading about 9/11 - I was seventeen when it happened and remember it so clearly, so to be reading about it nearly twenty years later was quite moving and a bit mind boggling.

I am so glad I read this - it's superb.

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