When a late life love affair blooms between Mr. Forrest Payne, the owner of the Pink Slipper Gentleman’s Club, and Miss Beatrice Jordan, famous for stationing herself at the edge of the club’s parking lot and yelling warnings of eternal damnation at the departing patrons, their wedding summons a legend to town. Mr. El Walker, the great guitar bluesman, comes home to give a command performance in Plainview, Indiana, a place he’d sworn—and for good reason—he’d never set foot in again.
But El is not the only Plainview native with a hurdle to overcome. A wildly philandering husband struggles at last to prove his faithfulness to the wife he’s always loved. And among those in this tightly knit community who show up every Sunday after church for lunch at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat, are the lifelong friends, known locally as “The Supremes” —Clarice, facing down her longing for, chance at and fear of a great career; Barbara Jean, grappling at last with the loss of a mother whose life humiliated both of them, and Odette, reaching toward her husband through an anger of his that she does not understand.
Edward Kelsey Moore’s lively cast of characters, each of whom have surmounted serious trouble and come into love, need not learn how to survive but how, fully, to live. And they do, every one of them, serenaded by the bittersweet and unforgettable blues song El Walker plays, born of his own great loss and love.
Edward Kelsey Moore Book Reviews
“This lusty novel sings with life, saluting friendships through dreams, marriage and long-held secrets.”
—Minneapolis Star Tribune, “Summer Books”
“Moore’s bluesy, breezy novel takes readers through life’s highs and lows and in-between times when no one knows what is coming next; its air of folksy optimism should appeal to fans of Alexander McCall Smith and Fredrik Backman.”
—Library Journal (starred review)
“Edward Kelsey Moore, besides being laugh out loud hilarious, has a profound understanding of human nature. This gift, combined with his clear love and affection for his characters, makes him a truly remarkable writer. This book is a joy to read.”
—Fannie Flagg, author of The Whole Town’s Talking and Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe
“Spending time with the Supremes is like slipping into a warm embrace of love and laughter, soul-searching and sass. There’s nothing these three strong women can’t handle, and that includes the legacy of the pain inflicted by fathers to sons, mothers to daughters. Edward Kelsey Moore has crafted a novel that beautifully illustrates the healing power of forgiveness.”
—Melanie Benjamin, author of The Swans of Fifth Avenue and The Aviator’s Wife
“The arrival of Edward Kelsey Moore’s new novel had me singing anything but the blues. Even better cause for celebration? Odette, Clarice, and Barbara Jean are back . . . and what a supreme encore it is!”
—Julia Glass, author of A House Among the Trees and Three Junes
Chapter 1 (Excerpt)
It was a love song. At least it started out that way. The lyrics told the tale of a romance between a man and the woman who made his life worth living. Being a blues song, it was also about how that woman repeatedly broke the man’s heart and then repaid his forgiving ways by bringing a world of suffering down on him. The beautiful melody soared and plunged, each verse proclaiming rapturous happiness and gut-wrenching pain. Here, in a church, this piece of music couldn’t have been further outside its natural habitat. But the tune’s lovely mournfulness echoed from the back wall to the baptismal pool and from the marble floor to the vaulted ceiling and settled in as if the forlorn cry had always lived here.
As the song continued and grew sadder with every line, I thought of my parents, Dora and Wilbur Jackson. The blues was Mama and Daddy’s music. Nearly every weekend of my childhood, they spent their evenings in our living room, listening to scratchy recordings of old-timey blues songs on the hi-fi. One of those might have been as sorrowful as the dirge ringing through the church, but I couldn’t recall hearing anything that touched this song for sheer misery.
Mama preferred her blues on the cheerier and dirtier side—nasty tunes loaded with crude jokes about hot dogs, jelly rolls, and pink Cadillacs. The gloomy ballads, like this one, were Daddy’s favorites. I never saw him happier than when he was huddled up with Mama on the sofa, humming along with an ode to agony. He would bob his head to the pulse of the music, like he was offering encouragement to a down-in-the-mouth singer who was sitting right next to him, croaking out his hard luck.
Sometimes, before sending me to bed, my parents would allow me to squeeze in between them. They’ve both been dead for years now, but their bad singing lingers in my memory. And, because I inherited their tuneless voices, I remind myself of my parents every time I rip into some unfortunate melody. Whenever I hear a melancholy blues, I feel the roughness of Daddy’s fingertips, callused by years of carpentry work, sliding over my arm like he was playing a soulful riff on imaginary strings that ran from my elbow to my wrist.
I’d be ordered off to bed when Mama’d had enough of the dreariness and wanted to listen to a record about rocking and rolling and loving that was too grown-up for my young ears.
Even though the song rumbling through the sanctuary would have been a bit dark for Mama’s taste, she’d have loved the singer’s wailing voice and the roller-coaster ride of the melody. And she wouldn’t have let this song go unnoted. If she had been in the church with me, she’d have turned to me and declared, “Odette, your daddy would’ve loved this song. Every single word of it makes you wanna die. I’ve gotta write this in my book.”
My mother’s “book” was a calendar from Stewart’s Funeral Home that she kept in her pocketbook. The cover of the calendar showed a gray-and-white spotted colt and a small boy in blue overalls. They were in a meadow, both of them jumping off the ground in an expression of unrestrained bliss. Above the picture were the words “Jump for Joy,” and below, “Happy thoughts to you and yours from Stewart’s Funeral Home.” Whenever Mama ran into something that she felt was remarkable enough to merit celebration, she wrote a note on that day’s date so she’d never forget it. Read the rest of this entry »