Reviewed by Rachel M.
Wendy Wax’s Magnolia Wednesdays is a light, fun romp. Vivien, or Vivi as her family calls her, is a strong and interesting heroine. She starts out as an investigative reporter in New York City, but after getting shot in the behind, retreats to heal her wounds in Georgia with her sister Melanie.
Even as her sister takes her in, though, Vivi betrays her by writing a pseudonymous column about the problems with suburban Southern life and “investigating” the mysterious death of Melanie’s husband, J.J. Wax does a great job of showing why Vivi keeps screwing up, even though, according to formula, that’s exactly what the heroine of this type of book has to do.
For me, some of the most enjoyable parts of Magnolia Wednesdays were those set at Melanie’s ballroom dance studio, chock full of fascinating female characters. There’s Ruth, the older Jewish lady who wishes her bagel-mogul husband would pay more attention to her, and Angela, the secretly once-fat beauty who second-guesses her seemingly perfect relationship. Vivi’s investigations into J.J.’s past were fun–figuring out what his sneaky best friend Clay was hiding, for example–but I was most interested in the group of female friends and their interactions in dance class.
I did get distracted by the constant references to Gone With the Wind, both the film and book versions: the siblings were named Vivien, Melanie, and Hamilton, and the pseudonym Vivi chose was Scarlet Leigh. I also found the relationship between Vivi and Melanie’s parents and their black housekeeper, Clementine, problematic: would a black woman working for a white couple in the South voluntarily act like Mammy? Perhaps this was supposed to be another example of how GWTW had pervaded Vivi’s family life, but for this reader, those scenes fell flat. Apart from these nagging distractions, Magnolia Wednesdays was refreshing and enjoyable.
Verdict: with its spunky main character and sympathetic supporting cast, this book would make for great company on a long plane ride.
Check out Wendy Wax’s website and our review of her last novel, The Accidental Bestseller.
Rachel, who has a Ph.D. in English, is a freelance writer/editor and a voracious reader. You can talk to her about books at http://twitter.com/writehandmann.
This book was provided free of any obligation by Berkley Trade. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.