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Hot Fudge Sundae Blues    by Bev Marshall order for
Hot Fudge Sundae Blues
by Bev Marshall
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2005 (2005)
* * *   Reviewed by Melissa Parcel

Soon after Layla Jay Andrews turns thirteen, she decides to fake a religious conversion to impress both her grandmother and the boy she has her eye on. Layla Jay's father died when she was two, and she and her wild mother live with her very religious grandparents. Although Layla Jay tries to be a good girl, her mother's example doesn't help. She dates one man after another, breaking things off when they get too serious, spending a great deal of time drinking and running around until all hours.

But when dynamic preacher Wallace Ebert comes to town, things begin to change in everyone's lives. Layla Jay's mother marries Wallace after a dramatic return to the faith and a very brief engagement. The new family moves out and things go well for a while. Layla Jay discovers what growing up is all about, learns about dating, and still keeps in contact with her grandparents. But things rapidly go wrong. Layla Jay's mother pulls Wallace into her old habits and the two start drinking and carousing, setting aside their religious practices. Wallace makes advances toward Layla Jay, and she is not sure exactly what to do.

Hot Fudge Sundae Blues is a beautifully written coming-of-age novel set in a small southern town during the 1960s. Layla Jay is a sympathetic main character. Written in first person, the intimacy of knowing Layla Jay's thoughts, feelings, and motivations works extremely well. Although at times she seems wiser than her years, the circumstances of her life make it necessary for her to grow up quickly. Conversely, neither Layla Jay's mother nor Wallace garner much respect from the reader. They don't have many redeeming qualities, but their weaknesses do make it clearer in which direction Layla Jay's life should head.

Bev Marshall presents Layla Jay's life in a realistic, yet hopeful manner. Even the terrible things that happen to her don't drag the tone down and make it depressing. Although we may not agree with the choices Layla Jay makes, or the consequences she must face for those choices, we can understand why she makes them because we feel like we know her. Hot Fudge Sundae Blues is a quiet novel that packs an emotional punch.

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