This is a book review for Talk of the Town by Lisa Wingate, available here:
I give this book 4*. It’s a very sweet and thought provoking read.
The story is told from the point of view of two very different ladies.
The first is Mandalay – a producer for the American Megastar talent show (think X Factor or American Idol and you’re there). She started off with all the hope in the world but has become jaded over time.
The second is Imagene, an elderly lady in her seventies who was widowed from the love of her life and is now a matriarch of her local town.
The story follows Mandalay as she comes to Daily, Texas to film the homecoming segment for one of the show’s competitors – Amber. She’s been a bit of a nightmare contestant because she keeps ending up in these ridiculous situations and coming up with the craziest excuses as to how they happened. Everyone assumes that she’s just putting it on for the camera.
When Mandalay arrives, small town life is something of a shock to her. She finds herself on the receiving end of some homegrown warmth and cooking, as well as rumour and the odd crazy touch of humour. She meets some real characters on her journey to find Amber’s roots and discovers that Amber isn’t putting it on at all. She genuinely is that sweet, sheltered and misunderstood.
It’s a learning process for the whole town. In the face of overwhelming media frenzy and a misguided star from a broken home with an alcoholic guardian, they have to pull together to make the brightest daughter of their town a megastar.
There is a love story entwined with it all too, but it’s more of an addition to the story, so I won’t go into it.
I actually really enjoyed this book, but not for the obvious reasons. I love books that make me think, long after I’ve finished the last page, and this was one of them. It’s not about stardom or fame or producing a show. It’s about not judging people on first appearances. It’s about having hope and making your dreams come true. It’s about breaking out of the mould that everyone else is trying to cast you in. It’s about having the courage to do the right thing, whatever it may cost you, and having faith that it’ll come right in the end.
One of the sweetest parts to the story was Imagene rediscovering herself. Since her husband died, she keeps telling herself that she’s old and fat and shouldn’t do anything. When she learns to let that go and goes on a rollercoaster for the first time in 70 plus years, it changes her life.
A special shout out in this review has to go to Donetta, the proprietor of the local hairdresser, who provided some seriously funny moments throughout the book, and to Buddy Ray, the dimmest cop in town.
I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone that wants to read something heartwarming, sweet and life affirming.