"The Supremes at EARL'S ALL-YOU-CAN-EAT"

“The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat,” by Edward Kelsey Moore. Random House/Knopf, 2013.

What a great read! The Supremes (no relation to the Motown singing group) are three black women in Plainview, Ind., who’ve been friends since their teens. Earl’s restaurant has been their hang-out place, where they have a standing reservation for the table at the front window.

Odette, Clarice and Barbara Jean are nearing 60, and are still the sprightly women who earned the nickname “The Supremes” 40 years earlier. We learn their stories in well-told flashbacks that sparkle with humor, warmth and heartache. Odette has visits from her dead mama and Eleanor Roosevelt, ghosts with hilarious antics and advice. Clarice, with her womanizing husband, struggles to maintain their relationship, and Barbara Jean copes with the death of her child and her husband.

Author Moore is spot-on with his female characterizations. It’s amazing that a male writer can capture the heart and soul of women so well. The men in the story don’t fare quite as well, but each has positive and negative traits that make them human. However, it’s the ladies that steal the show: planning weddings and funerals, dealing with the turmoil of the 1960s, managing the ups and downs of friendships and families, and enjoying the blessings and confinements of small-town life.

The rollicking humor is balanced with thoughtful reflections and with terrifying life and death struggles. This is indeed the real world, with no sugar-coating, but it’s a world with a fierce love of life and love.

“The Supremes at Earl’s” was selected as the Amazon Best Book of the Month for March. I would compare it most favorably to “The Help,” “Fried Green Tomatoes” and “Waiting to Exhale.” The book begs for a cinematic version. It would be great fun to help cast the three lead roles, plum parts with lots of spirit and strength and heart.

Edward Kelsey Moore lives in Chicago, where he has enjoyed a long career as a cellist. This is his first novel.

Book discussion groups will be delighted with this rollicking and thought-provoking title. Discussion questions can be found on the Random House website.

I give this novel an A+, since it’s above and beyond in all respects.

Emporia Public Library staff and volunteers write “On the Shelf.”

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