The Sweet By and By by Todd Johnson
I enjoyed this book but it wasn't the best book I've ever read. What surprised me the most was that it was written by a male, but followed the relationships of women in such an emotional, deep, insightful way that the whole time I was reading, I just assumed it was written by a woman. With only pages left until the end, I made the realization that it was, in fact, written by a man. And boy was I impressed. I didn't think it was possible, but Todd Johnson did it. I wonder if he grew up with a hoard of sisters...
Publishers Weekly review from Amazon.com:
Johnson's bittersweet and often humorous hen-lit debut portrays the lives of five very different Southern women: compassionate Lorraine, bossy Margaret, grief-stricken Bernice, ambitious April and brusque Rhonda. At the center of this character-driven novel is Lorraine, a nurse at the nursing home where Margaret and Bernice live. As the three women drift into friendship, hairdresser Rhonda arrives to take a part-time job, and the older women begin to change her life. Lorraine's daughter, April, meanwhile, is also gradually drawn into the circle. The story unfolds slowly over decades and life milestones, giving the characters plenty of time to reveal themselves. Johnson has a sure ear for Southern speech, though the dialect can become tiresome, and the narrative's lack of plot makes the novel feel overlong. Nevertheless, the underlying message of the power of love and friendship resonates, as does its depiction of the way in which people leading unremarkable lives can have a tremendous impact on those around them.