Friday, March 1, 2013

Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women's Literary Society (Amy Hill Hearth)

I read Amy Hill Hearth’s debut fiction novel, Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women's Literary Society, in record time, probably because I usually love “books about books.”  However, when I finished the novel, I found myself asking “Is that all?”  It seems like there could have been so much more, and while it was a quick read, it wasn’t quite a rewarding one.

Eighty-year-old Dora, the narrator, takes us back 50 years to Naples, Florida, when race relations were tense and there was a very definitive “Southern” way of life.  Dora works in a dead-end post office job and is just recently divorced (oh, the SCANDAL!!!).  One day, she meets Jackie Hart, who has just moved from Boston due to her husband’s job and is anxious to get a “literary salon” up and running.  The reader quickly gets to know the characters who show up to these meetings (especially through their reactions to the chosen books), including a woman who has just been released from jail for the murder of her husband.  Every single one of them has a secret (or secrets), and they all come out on the night of (what could be) a life-changing event.  The biggest secret of all, however, is one that the reader is made aware of early in the novel, but that is not revealed to the other characters until the end.

Hearth should be commended for writing an interesting story, but her characters are so engaging, that I would have loved to have learned more about them.  What happened to all of them between the time Dora’s remembrances stopped and present day?  The novel could have been much richer if Hill satisfied the reader’s curiousity, but it’s a good first fiction effort.