The Monday Book: THE SUPREMES AT EARL’S ALL YOU CAN EAT by Edward Kelsey Moore

earl'sI read this book while at the On the Same Page Literary Festival in West Jefferson, NC. Five of us were featured alongside Edward Kelsey Moore as festival headliner, and he was FUNNYYYY!!!! His talk Thursday night not only held good writing advice, but a very humanitarian approach to life.

Which shows in his novel. Men rarely write such sure-voiced women, but he’s got the sassy, the scared, the secure and insecure down. His book is the kind of funny where you’re laughing until you’re crying, but then maybe you’re crying because you know the feeling the characters (Odette, Barbara Jean, and Clarice) are experiencing.

The voices of these best friends are so accurate, both in gender and in dialect. Take this little gem: “Something Mama liked to say: “I love Jesus, but some of his representatives sure make my ass tired.”

Yeah, this book is irreverent. As the women struggle with Big Issues like cancer, infidelity, and a few other lesser details, they clean up, lay down laws, and pretty much rock and rule. And come out with some humdingers along the way, like when Odette clear-headedly assesses why she’s cooking herself into a lather:

“Our annual January get-together was a long-running tradition, going back to the first year of our marriage. The truth, even though he denies this, is that the first party was an attempt by James to prove to his friends that I wasn’t as bad a choice of a mate as I seemed. Richmond and Ramsey—and others, most likely—had warned James that a big-mouthed, hot-tempered woman like me could never be properly tamed. But James was determined to show them that I could, on occasion, be as domestic and wifely as any other woman. I suspect he’s still trying to convince them.”

Knowing I’d be reviewing it, the phrase that kept asserting itself as I read was “life-affirming.” Or maybe that’s just a hyphenated word. Anyway, it’s an accurate description of what on the surface might be considered “latte lit” yet runs so much deeper than its genre. Like the author Lorna Landvik and a few others, Moore is a careful consumer of humanity (it was fun watching him watch people at the funder’s breakfast) with a kind-hearted approach to how the world works. It shows in his writing.

Two enthusiastic coffee mugs up for this sweet, fun, thoughtful read.

The People that we Meet (and the Shortbread that they Eat)

IMG_4239Since the weather turned this Spring, Jack and I have been enjoying a fairly steady stream of visitors from book clubs. The one on the right, with Jack holding court, is from Christiansburg, with Pamela Hale (in the green dress) at the helm.

Book clubs (as well as posses of gal pals) have discovered we’re a good day out, that, as one visitor put it “The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap is accessible in every sense of the word!” Clubs from Tennessee, North Carolina, and Kentucky have visited this past month – not to mention the closer gang of Upward Bound kids from right here in the county.

It’s fun, playing host, answering questions about the book or the bookstore, and running our cafe. We have always served soups and sandwiches, but since the rise of the book clubs we’ve expanded our menu to include more British delicacies; cold cucumber soup remains a “never had this before” favorite for many visitors.)IMG_3637

We’ve also had several book clubs from farther away (Illinois and California, lately) email to ask questions or make observations from their discussions. One group that recently got in touch does that cool book club thing where they theme their refreshments to the books they’re reading.  Barbara, the host next month for Little Bookstore, emailed and asked ever so politely if Jack shared his shortbread recipe, as she’d serve that with cups of tea.

IMG_3636Cups of tea, as those of you who have read it know, is a recurring theme in Little Bookstore, and along with the story of Wee Willie and some comments about the cats, it’s what most readers mention most often, and sometimes first.  Jack and I hear “I’ll put the kettle on” often from people when talking about the book.

So, if you’re in the neighborhood and fancy a drive, we’ll put the kettle on for you. And if you’re too far away, but fancy some Scottish shortbread, here’s Jack’s mum’s recipe:

Sugar 3 ounces (1/3 cup); Flour 8 ounces (2 cups); Butter 6 ounces (1 and a half sticks)

(all weights are dry – NOT fluid ounces)

Sift flour and sugar into a bowl. After butter has softened at room temperature work it by hand into the mixed flour and sugar until it has become a fairly stiff dough (this will take a few minutes – be patient!).

Dust your work-surface with flour and roll out the dough to about ½ inch thick. Cut rectangles about 7 inches by 3 inches and use a flat spatula to transfer them to a buttered baking tray. Use a fork to prick the surface of the dough rectangles all over. Place the tray in the oven preheated to 3750 .

Keep checking until the edges of the rectangles are beginning to slightly brown (usually about 15 – 20 minutes). Remove from the oven and set the tray aside to cool. While the baked rectangles are still warm, carefully cut them into strips 3 inches by 1 inch (Jack uses a circular pizza cutter), then let them completely cool. Enjoy them with afternoon tea or coffee!