One of the rules to becoming a good writer is to be a good reader. So this year I took the Goodreads challenge to try to read a certain number of books. In addition to reading a greater number of books, I’m trying to read a bigger diversity of writers and genres. However, I can’t seem to stay away from the Southern scribes. Having been a lifelong Georgia resident, maybe it’s the ability to instantly identify with the characters and their way of life that draws me in. Some of my favorite writers are Southerners. Karin Slaughter, Pearl Cleage, Kathryn Sockett and David Fulmer all live in Atlanta and John Grisham’s protagonists usually call Memphis, Nashville or some part of Mississippi home. I stumbled across The Fixer Upper written by Mary Kay Andrews, another Atlantan, and I absolutely loved it.
The story begins in Washington D. C. with a slightly naive Dempsey Jo Kilbrew finding herself in the middle of a growing political scandal as her swarmy boss at the prestigious public relations firm that she works for us puts the noose around her neck to save his own. After she is unceremoniously fired by his assistant, embarrassed, broke and homeless she flees the capital city. She has two choices, she can go west to her jewelry-making mother in California or South to her remarried dad in Miami. She chooses dad. After a few days, she realizes staying with dad and his hot young wife is not an option so she reluctantly accepts a deal pitched by her father. He puts up the money and she invests the labor to restore his recently inherited Victorian house called Birdsong. Once the house sells, they split the profit.
The only problem is Birdsong is in Gutherie, Georgia, an hour from Atlanta and two miles from nowhere. Having no other options, Dempsey takes her dad’s offer and is soon washing windows, laying tile and stripping floors. Throw in a handsome lawyer, a womanizing real estate agent, a grumpy squatter and two determined FBI agents and you’ve got a warm and funny story that asks the question “where is home?” By the end of the novel Birdsong is not the only thing that has been transformed and the once naive Dempsey learns that sometimes home is a place you have never been.