REVIEW: “Hoosier Daddy” by Ann McMan and Salem West (repost)

I read this book 3 years ago. I was fortunate enough to get a pre-publication look at it. Boy-oh-boy! Was I glad that Salem West asked me – reviewer to reviewer – to take a look at it and give my honest opinion of it.

My honest opinion? It’s a FANTASTIC novel! I’ve re-read it a couple of times since then. It was perfect for those times when I needed a fun, hearty book to read. With each subsequent reading, I found something new and endearing within the story. It’s truly a treat.

McMan and West have now released a Second Edition of this fantastic story through Bywater Books with new cover art from TreeHouse Studio. (Hint: By TreeHouse Studio, I mean Ann McMan. She created the original, First Edition cover art, too.)

Take my advice. Click the image below. It will take you directly to the page at Bywater Books. Then make your purchase. You’ll be so glad you did!

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I’d been seeing these posts around Facebook for a story by Ann McMan and Salem West.  It was being posted chapter by chapter.  I was intrigued by this since I’ve read stuff written by each woman individually – Ann’s novels, Salem’s reviews, both of their Facebook posts.  I’d enjoyed everything I’d read from them, so I thought it would be interesting to read what they had written together.  Unfortunately, my life being what it is, I didn’t have the time to read Hoosier Daddy as it was being posted.  It wasn’t for lack of want, it was simply lack of time and energy.

So, when I learned that it was finished and being published, I thought, “Carleen, you’ve got to read this.  You can block some time and ‘git ‘r done’!”  And I did. Then it was time to write the review and life came back to bite me in the ass.  Work has been killing me this week.  So, while I had intended to get this review up earlier this week, I just didn’t have the time or the energy to make my brain function once I got home.

I was worn out – working long hours, being forced to carve out a small bit of time during the day just to use the restroom, not wanting social interaction after hours.  I just wanted to come home, put on the jammies, love on my cats, and turn off the world.

Funny how much I seemed to have in common with the narrator in Hoosier Daddy (Bedazzled Ink).

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Jill Fryman (Friday to her friends) is a line supervisor at a truck manufacturing plant in a small southern Indiana town. Life on the assembly line is almost as predictable as her love life. When it comes to matters of the heart, Friday always seems to be making the wrong choices.

Things go from bad to worse when El, a sultry labor organizer from the UAW, sweeps into town to unionize the plant right after it’s been bought out by a Japanese firm. Sparks fly on and off the line as Jill and El fight their growing attraction for each other against a backdrop of monster trucks, catfish dinners, Pork Day USA, and a bar called Hoosier Daddy.

Let me start by saying that I’m so glad I blocked time to read this novel.  It’s fun and full of heart.

McMan and West have a really wonderful writing style.  What I really love is that the writing style doesn’t seem to favor one author more than the other.  I’m sure we’ve all read stories (heck, I’ve written them) where it’s obvious which author was “in the lead” at any particular point in the story.  When it’s that obvious, I’m taken right out of the story!  That didn’t happen while reading Hoosier Daddy.  At no point did I think, “Oh, Salem wrote this part.” Or “This chapter had to be Ann’s.”  Everything flowed beautifully and seamlessly.

Having lived in the Midwest for a significant part of my life, I have a bit of an understanding of what life is like.  Since I lived in  Southern Illinois for 3 years, I was able to recognize so much truth in the setting and characters depicted in the story.  I’m particularly appreciative of the fact that McMan and West didn’t take the easy route and write stereotypes.  It would be so very easy to fall into that trap.  You know the trap I’m talking about.  It’s the trap that says all inhabitants of small towns like Princeton, IN have fewer teeth than fingers, have fewer brain cells than toes, and live in trailer parks with their trailers propped on cinder blocks.  It’s a trap that our entire society seems to have -willingly – fallen into.  McMan and West don’t go there.  Thankfully.  The characters in this book are so close to reality that I’m reminded of people I knew while living in Southern Illinois.  I lived in a trailer park that was surrounded by 3 other trailer parks.  There wasn’t a cider block as far as the eye could see.  My neighbors had lots of teeth and an abundance of brain cells.

So it is with the characters in Hoosier Daddy.  These are real people with real lives.  True, some of them are “characters”, but that’s what makes them so appealing.  We all have a T-bomb in our lives – that blunt, “tell-it-like-it-is” friend who holds us to our own truths.  Or a Luanne, who is always “in the know” and is willing to share what information she’s learned.  Or a Grammy Mann, who knows us better than we know ourselves.   McMan and West have given us a cast of characters who bring life and flavor to the novel.  And they are a delight.

Hoosier Daddy is told from Friday’s point of view.  In fact, Friday is telling her story.  I really like this.  Friday becomes a much more compelling and complex character.  Her view of Princeton, IN and it’s citizens provides us with a unique perspective.  There’s an interesting duality about Friday.  It’s one that I relate to very strongly.  Throughout her telling of the story, Friday projects a “What am I doing here?” sort of attitude.  She’s a college graduate who is working on a graduate degree.  She’s skilled far beyond her position at the plant.  She cringes at the thought of hearing “Friends in Low Places” but perks up when she hears Ella Fitzgerald.  It seems she’s a person with an urban sensibility, but who is trapped in rural reality.  It’s fascinating to watch as Friday navigates the competing forces in her life and the ways in which she struggles with them.  Over the course of the novel, she comes to learn the battles she’s simply not going to win – and discovers that she is really glad she didn’t.

The romance of the novel took me on a nice roller coaster ride.  It’s fun.  It’s funny.  It’s heartbreaking.  It’s familiar.  Friday and El don’t fall into bed within the first 10 pages of the novel, yet it doesn’t take until the end of the novel for them to get together.  It’s a steady, if unusual, courtship with plenty of flirting, second-guessing, and friends advising against the relationship, just to turn around and wonder what’s taking so long.  Friday and El made me laugh, sigh, and tear up a little.  Loved it.

If you’re looking for a great story that will make you laugh, make you think, and leave you feeling glad you read it, make sure you take the time for Hoosier Daddy.  You won’t regret it. It would be fun to revisit Princeton, IN and it’s citizens sometime.  I hope McMan and West feel the same.

I can’t wait to get my hands on a paperback copy so the authors can autograph it for me.

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