Your husband of 20 years leaves you --- but not before mortgaging your house to the hilt, emptying all your bank accounts, cashing in your insurance policies, and (the nerve!) pocketing your diamond engagement ring.
Up until now you have led a storybook life, while marriages all around you are splitting up in vast numbers. You are too proud to become just another statistic --- or even worse, another tale in the gossip mill. So what do you do? Well, if you're Mary Bliss McGowan, in LITTLE BITTY LIES by Mary Kay Andrews, you lie, of course! To start, you tell everyone that your husband is away on an extended consulting trip. Then you stage his death (a tragic boating accident in Cozumel). And then the lying escalates; one lie leads to another, and to another, and to another. It's a recipe for disaster.
Come to think of it, LITTLE BITTY LIES is an awful lot like Mary Bliss's specialty: chicken salad.
The main ingredient is chicken, or Parker, her yellow-bellied husband who poached the family nest egg and then cowardly abandoned his wife and daughter, not to be seen again until the end of the novel.
Toss in nuts, plenty of nuts. There are her dearest friends, Katherine and Charlie Weideman, the on-again, off-again middle-aged couple; Eula, the crazy mother-in-law who indulges in Paxil and gin cocktails; Randy, the nearly divorced neighbor who would probably like to live up to his name but doesn't know how; and Nancye, the town hot tamale.
Add water chestnuts, a bit of unexpected "crunch" to the story: Matt Hayslip, the undercover private eye whose keeping Mary Bliss on her toes (even though he'd prefer to keep her on her back).
Throw in mandarin oranges, with the juice, and you've got Dinky Davis, the coppertoned Cozumel stand-in who mixes too much liquid refreshment with his work.
A pinch of salt and pepper, maybe a dash of ginger --- a confused 17-year-old daughter Erin -- to add a bit of spice.
And, finally, the mayonnaise, the glue that holds it all together: Mary Bliss herself. Consummate housekeeper, extraordinary chef, Southern belle and devoted mother, Mary will stop at almost nothing to keep her family, or at least the image of her family, in tact.
Toss, mix, blend, and toss again, and not only do you have a summertime favorite salad, but also one heck of a fun story. LITTLE BITTY LIES is at times riotous, heart-wrenching, romantic, ridiculous, impossible, and touching --- but never boring.
Pour yourself a glass of iced tea (Mary Bliss would recommend sun-brewed) and enjoy.
Reviewed by Roberta O'Hara on May 25, 2004
Little Bitty Lies