ELLA IN BLOOM
Knopf, Dec 2000, 23.00, 259 pp.
In Texas, the two sisters, Terrell and Ella grew up under a steel magnolia of a mother who believed decorum and appearances are more important than substance. The older sibling Terrell learned quickly how to please their mama who places elegance and etiquette ahead of everything else in life. The younger of them Ella never really learned that lesson as she ran off with a man beneath the acceptable social line of her mother years ago.
Now a widow, Ella sends letters filled with lies to mama about her refined lifestyle. In reality, Ella does not want to deal with further condemnation if she told the truth about her life as a single mom to a teen watering the flowers not leisurely growing them. The dynamics of the relationships between the three women abruptly change when Terrell dies in a plane crash. Mama turns to Ella, who has become acceptable. However, Ella begins to question who she is and if being in the fold as the new “perfect” daughter is what she really wants from her life.
Shelby Hearon is known for her numerous domestic tranquillity novels especially involving the frailty of relationships even in marriage. Her latest Southern drama is populated by strong characterizations including the male cast which turns a cotton candy plot into a well written, warm tale. ELLA IN BLOOM provides a message that the wise learn: that to live you “got to please yourself” (Stephen Stills) or become a mental and emotional puppet. Ms. Hearon's philosophy inside the sugar and honey works for readers who relish a pleasant cutesy finding oneself drama.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner