The first clue that Almost Paradise would qualify for a good Southern yarn came when I saw the author’s name, Corabel Shofner, on the Net Galley offering for an advance reading copy. She did, indeed, grow up in the Mississippi Delta with a long line of Southern ancestors. The second clue came in Corabel’s workshop at the Faye B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival when she recounted growing up among eccentric relatives. By this time, I had her book downloaded on my Kindle ready to read when it came up in the queue.
It’s a good thing I didn’t know just how entertaining it would be or my queue would have been completely messed up. There are problems aplenty for protagonist Ruby Clyde (also a Southern name) – a father who died before she was born, a mean grandmother, an estranged aunt. And these are before her mother’s boyfriend takes her and her mother on a trip where they steal/rescue a pig from a show and the boyfriend commits armed robbery. When her mother is falsely accused of abetting the crime and is put in jail, Ruby Clyde must rely on others to help her find the estranged aunt who turns out to have secrets of her own.
Spunk and humor lace into Ruby Clyde’s search for home and vindication for her mother. Those who do her harm are balanced by others who genuinely care for her. Even as the author brings rescuers into Ruby Clyde’s life, she pokes fun at the icons of Southern culture. “Mr. Gaylord Lewis had gone to court and told the judge he would watch after my mother until trial. And since Mr. Lewis was so big and important with football and money and God, the judge couldn’t say no.”
I’ll miss Ruby Clyde now that I’ve closed the last page of the book. It’s available for purchase on July 25.
I would suggest pairing this book written by a descendant of Delta landowners with Midnight Without a Moon, written by a descendant of sharecroppers, that I reviewed on June 16. The authors met in a coincidence as their books came out and have become friends.