Friday, August 24, 2007

Quite a Year for Plums by Bailey White

"There is no beginning to love," Roger said. "It just creeps over you."

"Oh," said Hilma, "like brown rot on a plum tree in the dark winter months, and by the time you become aware of it, the leaves are out and it's too late to spray."

Quite a Year for Plums is a novel by Bailey White, who is most known for her nonfiction titles Mama Makes Up Her Mind and Sleeping at the Starlight Motel. Like her other books, it is full of offbeat characters and funny situations.

I particularly like the details in Chapter 17, "The Dying House." It is a winter in south Georgia, and Hilma has left her faucets running during a cold snap to keep the pipes from freezing again. She lies in bed dreaming about tropical plants, reluctant to throw off the covers, but she does. Her seedlings on the windowsill have succumbed to the cold, so she bakes her potting soil in the oven to kill the pathogens, so she can reuse it. Meade drops by to chat, and they discuss Roger's thirty-five year old horse. He has constructed a shelter from sheets of Styrofoam to protect the dying animal. It is a dying house for a dying horse. Hilma has to go see.

Every chapter is like this. People do things do some things to which we can all relate, but then they do something unusual. It is all entertaining, but it does not seem to tell much of a story. I am left wondering what it was all about.

There are a lot of characters in Quite a Year for Plums. White includes a list of characters after the table of contents. It reminds me of a Robert Altman film. Christopher Guest could adapt it for his troupe of comic actors; I know they'd ignore the script, which might help.

I enjoyed the book. I would have liked to have learned more about Della, the young wildlife artist who starts to systematically dispose of her possessions at the local dump. Her relationship with Roger has more possibilities.

White does not seem to have written anything lately. I hope she tries again.

White, Bailey. Quite a Year for Plums. Knopf, 1998. ISBN 0679445315

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