Monday, November 14, 2011

Review: The Honk and Holler Opening Soon by Billie Letts

Reviewed by Connie

Published: 1998

It's about: From the same author as Where the Heart Is comes a second novel, The Honk and Holler Opening Soon, the story of a down-and-out, disabled Vietnam vet, Caney Paxton, who opens a diner in the small town of Sequoyah, Oklahoma and never leaves it. Enter, Vena Takes Horse, a beautiful, Native American nomad who doesn't believe in staying put, and Bui Khanh, a Vietnamese refugee who is working to pay his wife's passage to America. The entrance of these two characters shakes things up at the Honk and this stagnant, small town, as each character learns to come to grips with his/her past and overcome personal barriers.

I thought: This book surprised me. Though it starts off slowly, jumping back and forth among the four primary characters' story lines, once all four are together at the Honk, the narrative picks up.

The small town of Sequoyah is not dissimilar to the small town where I currently find myself, so it has its charmingly unique characters. But the most interesting aspect of the book is the growth of the four primary characters, as they learn how to stop dwelling in their pasts and open up to the possibility of a brighter future. Billie Letts is, above all, a very good story teller.

Though it is an easy read, it is not without its share of literary devices and character development, so I wouldn't call it a mindless read -- it falls somewhere between a literary classic and a beach read.

Verdict: Stick it on the shelf

Warnings: Allusions to sex, occasional mild language

Favorite excerpts:
Here's an example of the pleasant sort of small-town humor that pervades the book.
Throughout the morning, MollyO repeated her news [that she was going to be a grandmother] many times, but most of her customers...responded by pulling out pictures of their own grandchildren, whom they declared to be not only beautiful, but talented and sweet as well.
The exception was Wilma Driver. 
"This is my grandson Ronnie," she said as she flipped through the pictures in her billfold. "He's nineteen, ugly and stupid. Doesn't work, doesn't go to school, doesn't bathe."
Trying to sound unfazed, MollyO aske, "What does he do, Wilma?"
"Drugs. Now this one is Erin, fourteen. She's trying to sleep with every boy on the football team before her junior year. If she does, she wins five hundred dollars."
"Now who would pay her to do a thing like that?"
"The football team...Wait, there's one more. Ashley. She's eight, and according to her, an alien. Claims she's from a planet called Klynot and refuses to eat anything green. Says if she does, she'll turn to slime."

What I'm reading next: Re-reading A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf