Arts & Leisure

Book review: Better Luck Next Time — by Julia Claiborne Johnson

(Custom House)
When an unknown but interested party finds Howard Stovall Bennett III, living out his last days in a retirement home, and shows him an old photo, Ward, as he was known, is delighted to tell the story of the time he worked as a make-believe cowboy on a dude ranch near Reno, Nev. that catered to the divorce trade, The Flying Leap. In those days, the late 1930s, a woman with means could establish residency in Nevada in just six weeks, and then obtain a divorce. It was Ward’s job to squire these ladies around, take them on gentle trail rides through the dry desert, hold their purses while they shopped. While fraternization was strictly prohibited, close relationships did indeed form. Ward, with his Southern upbringing, was a gentleman and a true romantic, relegated to a working life since his family lost their fortune, and grand house, in Whistler, Tenn. Things get a bit sticky when two of the well-to-do women form an attachment to him, and, with emotions running high, Ward receives some unexpected and tragic news. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself stalling near the end of this warmhearted novel — you’ll be wanting to know how the story ends, but not quite ready for it to be over.
— Reviewed by Jenny Lyons of The Vermont Book Shop in Middlebury.

11 Lighthearted and Lively Tomes
Dear Emmie Blue, by Lia Louis
Anxious People, by Fredrik Backman
Black Buck, by Mateo Askaripour
The Unhoneymooners, by Christina Lauren
Nothing to See Here, by Kevin Wilson
The Liar’s Dictionary, by Eley Williams
Squeeze Me, by Carl Hiaasen
No One Is Talking about This, by Patricia Lockwood
The Hating Game, by Sally Thorne
Ten Rules for Faking It, by Sophie Sullivan
The Chicken Sisters, by KJ Dell’antonia 

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