Saturday, February 5, 2011

I May Look Great and Act Dumb, But Don't You Believe It: "Heaven, Texas" by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Bobby Tom Denton was a wide receiver for the Chicago Stars, and was probably one of the greatest wide receivers in the NFL. He was Texas born and bred and held out for a very sizeable contract with the Stars each time his contract came up for renewal because he said they owed him extra money to play football somewhere else besides Texas. He was a good ole boy, with fast cars and fast women, all of whom were looking to be Mrs Bobby Tim Denton. But none of them could pass his football quiz. Now he was retired--a great big Neanderthal from the Chicago Bears had tackled him and blown out his knee. Goodbye career.

Gracie Snow was employed by Windmill Films to make sure that Bobby Tom Denton got to Telarosa, Texas, the site of the filming of his first movie and a gig he didn't necessarily want to play, even though he had signed the contract. Gracie was anything but graceful, but she wanted to badly to break out of her humdrum life and to finally manage to do something besides manage the home for the elderly which her family had run for years. In Gracie, Bobby Tom may have met an adversary that was going to take him down for count more effectively than any gridiron opponent he had ever met.

Telarosa, Texas was a little town that had seen better days. Its original name was Heaven, not because of its scenic beauty, but because it had the best whorehouses in that part of Texas. Eventually the people decided to change its name for obvious reasons. Bobby Tom Denton was their favorite son, one who had grown up there and made it to the big leagues. Now Windmill Films was going to use Telarosa to film and the town was also using Bobby Tom's time there to develop some civic activities and landmarks in order to bring more tourists into the area. It looked like the man who owned the only factory in those parts was thinking seriously of moving out of Telarose, effectively killing the town unless some other means of income was developed. It seemed that Bobby Tom was it.

Gracie Snow was NOT Bobby Tom's "type" of woman. In fact, even though she had a very good figure and was pretty enough, she had the fashion sense of a grocery bag and a very irritating way of figuring out that all his good ole boy jargon hid a very smart man who knew exactly what he was doing, in spite of the show he put on. She wasn't even aware that she had piqued his interest because she was smart, seemed to find ways of getting him to do things he didn't seem to want to do, and managed to get him to Telerosa--10 days late, but she got him there.

This is a very insightful book about a world class athlete whose brilliant career was cut short by an injury. He continued to be a chick magnet and to shoot the bull just about everywhere he went. His popularity didn't seem to be dimmed at all. But underneath was a very sad and troubled young man who didn't seem to know a direction for his future. Gracie Snow was a woman who really didn't know her own strengths, who really didn't appreciate her extraordinary ability with people, or recognize the need to do good for people that drove her. She also saw all the women who flocked around Bobby Tom and just "knew" that she had all the chances of an iceberg in Hell of ever catching his eye romantically. These two people became a part of each other's lives in curious ways, and their romance seemed to grow almost without their even being aware of it--except Gracie was very aware that she had fallen in love with him. She simply decided to appreciate the time she had as his "personal assistant" during the film shoot, and let that be her memory book when Bobby Tom moved on. Both these characters were forced, in one circumstance or another, to discover things about themselves that they weren't necessarily prepared to acknowledge--some really good things and some not so goo.

I found this book to be a fascinating look at small town life, at the struggles of a pro athlete to shape his life after playing days were over, at how individuals can really change the course of an entire community, and how caring and giving can effectively trump glitz and glamour. This novel is chock full of fun and there were times a just had to put the book down and spend some time laughing. SEP has such a wonderful way with words, and all these characters were so full of life. The citizens of Telerosa were amazing characters--many of whom are probably icons of people who inhabit small towns all over America. The background stories were fascinating, and the side story with Bobby Tom's mother and some of the other citizens of the town added flavor and spice to the novel. I have re-read it once already because I enjoyed to dialogue and repartee so much. It is just such a grand read!

This book was originally published in 1995, but I found it very appropriate for our times now, and hope that if you haven't had a chance to read it, you will get at your library or buy the book. It really is worth your time. And if you have not read any of SEP's work before, this is such a fun series to begin with. I give this book a rating of 4.25 out of 5.

1 comment:

Jill D. said...

Good Ole Bobby Tom. Man, he is a fantastic character. You cheer him and you boo him. I love the way he grovels at the end of the story. A classic and keeper for me. Glad you enjoyed it. I think everyone needs to read SEP. She is the best!