Maggody in Manhattan by Joan Hess

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Maggody in Manhattan

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

There is much to talk about in Maggody, Arkansas. First, the eagerly anticipated wedding of Kevin Buchanan (who is several bricks short of a load) and Dahlia O’Neill (who is larger than life in several respects) provides ample evidence for those inclined to discuss the human condition in detail. Then comes the news that the less than reclusive owner/operator of Ruby Bee’s Bar and Grill is a finalist in the Krazy KoKo-Nut Bakeoff. In short order, the Buchanans leave for Niagra Falls and Ruby Bee and Estelle Oppers (the quintessential Sancho Panza) are off to see all that New York has to offer.

Ruby Bee’s much put-upon daughter Arly Hanks (urban refugee and Chief of Police) is of two minds about the news. Although she questions her mother’s ability to survive the experience, she fears that the Big Apple may not be able to cope with the secondary explosions which must surely result from Ruby Bee and Estelle’s customary approach to life. Arly’s fears are soon justified when she learns that her mother is in jail for shooting another contestant. Even as Arly is flying to the rescue and the bodies are beginning to pile up, the remaining denizens of Maggody are once again proving that excitement in the city pales by contrast with normal life in the country.

Joan Hess deftly manages multiple subplots while keeping the story moving right along. The unwary reader may suffer an initial attack of literary coitus interruptus, but all the narrative yarn is finally put in place. Maggody, Arkansas, is not a place to visit, and probably most would not enjoy residence there, but Hess’s loyal readers insist on being informed as to what goes on among the folks who call it home.