When I read and reviewed The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow I was slightly troubled because I quickly recognized author Joyce Magnin was talented, especially in character development, yet I wasn't thrilled with the book. In my review, I mentioned that she had written more books set in Bright's Pond stories set in the 1970s. I wondered if I should try another. Am I ever glad that I took the chance on a second book. I just finished Charlotte Figg Takes over Paradise and loved every second reading it.
Today we often read that newly widowed spouses should make no rash decisions for at least six months after the funeral. Obviously that was not widely accepted knowledge in the early 70's because Charlotte Figg, within days of her Fuller Brush salesman husband's death, decides to buy a trailer she sees in a newspaper ad. Not a travel trailer, but a park model in a town she has never even visited. She loads the car (which she almost never drove during her marriage) and a rented storage trailer and leaves all behind. Several hours later, as she drives around the Paradise Trailer Park, and then circles it again to recheck the trailer numbers, Charlotte realizes she is the victim of a cruel bait n switch sale. There is no shiny double wide trailer with cute curtains. Instead, she has bought a run-down speciman complete with sagging ceiling, visiting raccoons and a nasty smell. She is ready to admit defeat and leave immediately - that is, until she meets the neighbors. A menagerie of odd characters, you will soon fall in love with them (or least most of them), just as Charlotte did. There is artist Rose, who sees God's hand in everyone's life except her own. It doesn't take Charlotte long to seek out why Rose's scarred arms are covered in tattoos. (Remember this is the 70s and women with colored arms were not common!!!) Next there is Asa, the park's handyman. Perhaps I should mention that Asa only has one arm, so that makes his work quite amazing. Then there is little Ginger, not a child, but a real LITTLE PERSON and of course, I can't forget the eccentric elderly lady who feeds the birds. Just wait until you learn her secrets. Then there is the group of women who almost never leave their homes as they care for husbands and children. Who could foresee that the arrival of 50 year old Charlotte with her rescued dog and an old softball trophy among her few possessions would change their lives.
This book is told with great humor and compassion, causing me to laugh out loud several times.
Despite the light tone and wacky characters, there are very strong themes within. Charlotte quickly learns that something is not right at the trailer manager's house and she senses that the young wife might be a victim of abuse. When she learns that Asa believes the same, she wants to take action.
I won't spoil the story by revealing anymore. I can only say be ready for laughter, tears, plenty of surprises and even more pie. Also check out Joyce Magnin's blog to learn more about her other books. I am delighted to see that she has started to write for middle schoolers. I know that market very well, and it's wonderful to see imaginative writers target that audience. Enjoy reading and why not brighten someone's day with a slice of pie.