The Sweet Potato Queen’s 1st Big Ass Novel by Jill Conner Browne seemed an unlikely choice for my book club, so I was more than a little surprised when it got voted in. Having just read Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague together, I guess we needed a little something to lighten things up, but wow- we went from one extreme to the other. I wasn’t sure I’d like it, since I don’t typically gravitate toward chick lit, but what a romp! If ya’ll are looking for great literature, this ain’t it, but if you want a sassy Southern comedy with tons of attitude, look no further.
It’s 1968, and four high school misfits decide to form their own club when a new girl, beautiful redheaded Tammy, daughter of a housekeeper, is humiliated by the rich and popular teen queens in the Key Club. They call themselves the Tammy club, don red wigs and bejeweled cateye glasses, and pull her into their group. The Tammys soon become the Yammy Queens by a little painting mishap on a banner for the homecoming parade, and when interviewed afterwards, the reporter wants to know why they are called the Sweet Potato Queens (SPQs). The name sticks.
Narrated by SPQ Jill, The Queens are followed through many adventures over two decades of career changes, moves, marriages, divorces, lovers (straight and gay), births, and deaths, and through it all they support and encourage each other the way best friends do, only better. They are the type of loyal lifelong friends most people can only dream of.
Featuring a couple fabulous made-up words like “bosshole” (can you guess the meaning?) and hysterical southern phrases like “Butter my butt and call me a bisquit!” this book had me chuckling to myself in several places. While there are lots of cliched characters and situations with predictable outcomes, and the flow of the story is a bit inconsistent, I still found myself enjoying the book. The foreword is especially funny and relatable, and the recipe section in the back is a delight. The Sweet Potato Queen’s 1st Big Ass Novel has considerable wit and charm and I would recommend it for a fun summer read.
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