Yesterday, I tweeted this to a friend: Family drama makes good fiction. Certainly, I believe that’s true for my novel, The Sweet Spot, set for a Feb. 20 launch. Especially, when it involves class.
Edie St. Claire, the novel’s main character, is in the thick of this drama. She is a part of two families. The first is the one she has with her father, aunt, and young daughter — the Sweets. Then, there are her in-laws, the St. Claires.
If you were to divide the fictional town of hilltown of Conwell into classes, the Sweets would be in the lowest. After all Edie’s father runs the town dump. They live in a modest duplex home on a back dirt road where Benny Sweet stores all the junk he hauls home from the dump.
When Benny finds a kid’s bike, he spray paints it gold for his granddaughter. Her grandparents, the St. Claires, buy her a new one.
Edie’s income comes from the government, because her young husband, Gil, died eight years earlier in Vietnam, and what she gets paid working at her in-laws’ store.
Her in-laws, the St. Claires, are in the opposite class. Fred and Marie own the town’s only store and do well by it. They have a fine home. They are generous with their granddaughter.
The St. Claires certainly were not happy their favored son, Gil, loved and married Edie. They made that very clear. It took a while, but Marie and especially Fred got over it.
Of course, there is family drama when it comes to Walker, Gil’s married younger brother, who is having an affair with Edie. I am not going to say more about that, except when things turn ugly, high family drama comes to play. People are downright cruel.
There’s other drama in the novel. I mentioned in the last post the good-natured rivalry between Benny Sweet and his sister Leona, the fiery, one.
Of course, Harlan Doyle, the newcomer who moves next door to Edie, gets a ringside seat for all of it.
Here’s a scene early on at the Memorial Day celebration the St. Claires hold at their house. Edie is there with her young daughter.
Later, Edie gnawed on a chicken bone while Gil’s great-uncle napped beside her in his wheelchair. He had a smile on his sleeping face. Gil loved the man, and she was content watching him while she tried to build a buzz from the weak beer her in-laws bought.
Marie took the chair next to hers. Her face was flushed.
“Edie, I don’t know why I do this every year,” she spoke loudly. “It’s getting to be too much.”
Edie closed her eyes briefly. She smiled at her mother-in-law. Women who didn’t drink for fun got so sloppy when they do to forget. She didn’t blame Marie. This was tough day for her. So was Gil’s birthday, Christmas, or any day that reminded her she was a mother to a good son who died young.
“You don’t have to, Marie,” Edie told her. “People would understand.”
Edie knew her mother-in-law wanted to talk about Gil. It wasn’t always this way between them. She remembered how much Fred and Marie disliked her when she and Gil went out in high school. Their Gil loved Benny Sweet’s daughter, the girl who used to go with her father when he worked at the town dump. They were too polite to say it directly to her, but Edie knew by their stiff comments and the way they checked the clothes she wore. Both wanted another girl to marry their son, someone who went to church and whose father had a respectable job. But it was behind them now.
She only had to glance at Marie, and the woman began blubbering about Gil.
“I was so scared when he went.” Marie’s brown eyes, like Gil’s, dug into her. “I knew something terrible was going to happen to my Gil. I just knew it.”
She could finish her mother-in-law’s sentences. Gil didn’t deserve to die. He would have been a wonderful father to Amber. She was grateful Edie made him so happy.
Marie grasped Edie’s hand.
“Edie, Edie, what am I going to do?”
“Marie, you’re gonna be okay.”
“No, I’m not. Sometimes when I see men Gil’s age come into the store, I wish they were dead instead of him.” Marie’s hand wound around Edie’s as if it grew there. She whispered, “I feel wicked saying it, but I can’t help it.”
“Marie, it’s not gonna change a thing. Gil’s never coming back. Never.” She slipped her hand from Marie’s and stood. “And you’re sure not making me feel any better.”
ABOUT THE IMAGE ABOVE: I bought this little treasure, a hand-made lace handkerchief, for $2 at a local thrift store. I can’t imagine the work that went into this piece. A labor of love, I am certain.