From the back of the book, you will gather that this book involves murder, the mob, an illegal moonshining operation. My impression when I read the book was, it’s a shame that such unpleasant things should happen to such nice people. All they really want to do is fall in love and make a buck, and here they keep being inconvenienced by things like their husband, and the multiple murders they commit.
I am not really sure why Mary DesJarlais included all these troublesome elements. She is clearly not that interested in them. She is not interested in writing a crime novel or a thriller or even a police procedural. She is not trying to create suspense. She is certainly doesn’t want to delve into guilt or mortality. Here she is, trying to tell a story about true love, and sisterhood, and the Sacred Power of Women, and then every once in awhile those dead bodies from the beginning will come back and start bothering people again. I mean, just because one character murders another’s husband, is that really a reason to fight?
The book starts out with Dorie LaValle, a hard-working Minnesota farm wife who runs a moonshine business on the side. She technically runs this business with her husband, Louie, but she’s far more interested in Victor, their hired man. Everything is going hunky-dory until a pair of brothers from the Chicago mob show up, and they just happen to get murdered, and then the sheriff starts poking his nose into their business.
As I said, this is mostly a nuisance to Dorie and Victor, who just want to be left alone so they can have an affair. The main reason for all this background, story-wise, is that it brings a third main character into town. It also necessitates some difficult choices at the end, but everyone gets off pretty easily, considering.
The majority of the characters in this book are fairly ordinary. Even the moonshining bit doesn’t seem that exciting. Nobody does anything of any great importance. Nobody thinks or says anything all that impressive. At times, it felt like this was a book about ordinary people, who were trying their darndest to be ordinary under extraordinary circumstances.
The one exception to the ordinary rule is Victor, and as readers, we spend a fair amount of time noticing this. I felt kind of bad for the other men in this book, because nobody’s going to be interested in them when Victor’s around. He’s good-looking, sensitive, empathetic, and brave. He’s as good at making love as he is at cooking breakfast.
I suspect that DesJarlais intended to cast some of her other male characters as villains, but in general, their worst failing is that they are weak and ineffective. Even Louis, who does a few reprehensible things, is more pathetic than anything else.
On a positive note, DesJarlais does have a way with words, and knack for rendering even minute details. She is a fine writer; but this does not feel like a natural story for her to tell. In the future, she might write something about, say, a sewing circle, or the Sisterhood of the Traveling Bloomers. Crime and grit, though, might belong better in another book.
Title: Dorie LaValle
Author: Mary DesJarlais
Publisher: North Star Press of St. Cloud, Inc.
Released: March 15, 2011