Mermaids in the Basement
Michael Lee West
Harper, Jan 2008, $23.95
Carrying twenty extra pounds is enough of a load, but Renata DeChavannes rationalizes that she has earned every pound. Five months ago her mother and stepfather died in a plane crash leaving Renata bereft. Recently the National Examiner ran a feature about her boyfriend award winning movie director Ferguson Lauderdale having an affair with actress Esme Vasquez while filming on location in Ireland Joyce’s Ulysses. Finally her father Louie informs her that he is marrying again for the nth time with someone younger than her.
However, all that goes on the back burner when Renata obtains a message from her late mom insisting she go “home” to learn her "dirty secrets." A chance to escape Hollywood and her current case of writer’s block, Renata leaves for the Alabama’s Gulf Coast. There she will do her mom’s bidding while seeing the steel magnolia make that tungsten magnolia triad of her grandmother Honora DeChavannes, Renata’s former nanny Gladys Boudreaux and longtime friend former actress Isabella D'Agostina McGeehee.
Although the myriad of subplots needs a scorecard (or perhaps a flow chart) to keep track of, fans will enjoy this amusing slice of southern life. The women including Renata’s late mother come across as fully developed formidable people while the men especially her boyfriend and her dad seem emaciated in comparison. Still readers will appreciate this humorous but discerning look at you can come home even if a major part of what made it home has passed on.