Things are not going well for Jeanne (pronounced "zhonn," in the French style). A fortysomething divorced mom, she's put on weight, is watching her red hair turn gray, and to make matters worse, she feels compelled to fulfill the promise she made to her father on his deathbed -- the one about going home to backwater Louisiana to care for her ailing mother. Jeanne watches as her mother, Velma, wrestles with Alzheimer's disease, becoming less herself with each passing day. The task of caring for her is both physically and mentally exhausting, and Jeanne feels isolated: resenting her only brother for not understanding the full extent of Velma's illness, blaming herself for accepting such a heavy load, and hating her mother for putting her through it all. As Jeanne relives her childhood, we come to understand that her insecurities are rooted in her own endless comparisons between her mother's "perfect" appearance and Jeanne's "homely" one. We learn of Jeanne's marriage to Larry, the birth of their son, and of their eventual divorce. Jeanne finds herself drinking to numb the pain of her mother's death before she's truly gone. But wait a minute -- M. A. Harper has not written a depressing, self-flagellating first novel but a deeply human, hysterically funny one! Harper's story of how one woman comes to terms with her mother's impending death and her own mortality makes for an extraordinarily engrossing and moving read.
–Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers
Spring 2001 selection