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Spinning Dixie    by Eric Dezenhall order for
Spinning Dixie
by Eric Dezenhall
Order:  USA  Can
St. Martin's, 2006 (2006)

Read an Excerpt

* *   Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle

Jonah Eastman is a presidential press secretary, and when he's abruptly fired, he still has connections in Washington. He's good friends with President Truitt, as well as with other people he's worked with over the years, and when he needs help, several government agencies come through for him. Spinning Dixie begins in 2003 right after Jonah loses his job. A beautiful young woman comes to the White House to see him, says 'Rattle & Snap,' and hands him a small envelope, embossed: Rattle & Snap, Mount Pleasant, Tennessee. Within the envelope is an enigmatic note written by Claudine Polk, the first serious girlfriend of his youth, asking for Jonah's help in saving her plantation from her estranged husband who has tricked her into signing away her rights to it.

Nothing is too serious in this book. Jonah's life has been anything but dull, and he's learned a thing or two from his gangster grandfather and ditsy grandmother and their friends. The story alternates between his efforts to save Rattle & Snap in 2003 and the events of the summer of 1980 when he fell in love with Claudine, her family and her plantation. I enjoyed the mature Jonah's maneuverings on behalf of saving the plantation more than the young Jonah's romantic daydreams but understood the need to know what had happened in the past.

The characters range from Mickey, the gambling kingpin grandpa who raised Jonah, to Confederate reenactors who come to the plantation to fight the government, with a liberal sprinkling of southern belles, politicians, old family retainers, and crazy relatives. The people are all well-drawn and believable as well as being oddball characters. Jonah is the normal one, sometimes seeming overwhelmed by the madness around him but managing to use it for his own purposes when necessary.

Back and forth we go between 2003 and 1980, between Washington or Atlantic City and Rattle & Snap, Tennessee. There are some extremely funny passages. One of my favorite was Mickey's account of the story of Passover. 'It's a simple story, really,' Mickey sighed. 'The Israelites lived in Egypt. They multiplied, got more power. Pharaoh sees Jews living in the new fancy condo complex he was planning - the Pyramids at Red Sea. Pharaoh got worried, cracked down, and made them slaves.' Mickey goes on in this vein, comparing the Book of Exodus to a Fort Lauderdale condo meeting, completing the story with a few pithy phrases, but getting all the essential information right.

There are some surprising plot twists along the way, but all's well that ends well. The clever writing and delightful characters made for a fun romp with Jonah, as a northerner who helps his southern friend and learns perhaps more about southern ways than he really wanted to know.

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