J.L. Miles,
Divorcing Dwayne
(Cumberland House, 2008)

Divorcing Dwayne is the first in a three-part humorous series based on the marital trials of Georgia girl Francine Harper. Author J.L. Miles labels the series as "grit-lit."

When Francine first met Dwayne, her mama told her that man "wasn't worth losing her pants over," and her daddy just rolled his eyes and went back to his newspaper. If only she'd listened, she would not have ended up in jail for trying to shoot Dwayne and his stripper girlfriend, Carla, when she caught them in the act.

The antics get crazier from there. Francine, backed up with her best friend Ray Anne and her stepsister Trudy -- who really isn't a stepsister, she just lived with her family -- get into antics from the "Backyard Bridal" organization of a wedding, which "wasn't too bad save that a 12-foot crocodile showed up," to dealing with the mob, the FBI and various nefarious locals in between.

Probably the funniest character in the whole novel is Nanny Lou, who's a cross between Grandma Mazur and Maxine (of Hallmark Shoebox card fame). This purple-haired granny's got a few bricks short of a load, but she's always into something and she's funny enough to make me laugh in the dentist's office, which -- trust me -- is pretty darn funny.

The formula here isn't original. We've got our heroine with her crazy sidekicks and nutty grandma. But throw in some man troubles and some criminals, and you've got a plum of a tale. What keeps this story from being just another knockoff is the writing itself. Voice is one of those aspects of writing that's hard to define, but as a reader you know it when you read it. Divorcing Dwayne is one of those novels where you can hear the characters' conversation in your head. It's pretty bizarre if you're not familiar with the dialect at first, but sit a spell and relax. You'll feel at home soon enough.

review by
Becky Kyle

8 November 2008

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