The Right Thing
By Amy Conner
Publisher: Kensington Publication date: 5/27/2014
My Rating: 5 Stars +
On a scorching August day in 1963, seven-year-old Annie Banks meets the girl who will become her best friend. Skinny, outspoken Starr Dukes and her wandering preacher father may not be accepted by polite society in Jackson, Mississippi, but Annie and Starr are too busy sharing secrets and playing elaborate games of Queen for a Day to care. Then, as suddenly as she appeared in Annie's life, Starr disappears.
Annie grows up to follow the path ordained for pretty, well-to-do Jackson women--marrying an ambitious lawyer, filling her days with shopping and charity work. She barely recognizes Starr when they meet twenty-seven years after that first fateful summer, but the bond formed so long ago quickly reemerges. Starr, pregnant by a powerful married man who wants her to get out of town, has nowhere to turn. And Annie, determined not to fail her friend this time, agrees to drive Starr to New Orleans to get money she's owed.
During the eventful road trip that follows, Annie will confront the gap between friendship and responsibility; between her safe, ordered existence and the dreams she's grown accustomed to denying.
Moving, witty, and beautifully told, The Right Thing is a story of love and courage, the powerful impact of friendship, and the small acts that can anchor a life--or, with a little luck, steer it in the right direction at last.
LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this riveting, witty, and moving debut novel! If you are a fan of authors, Susan Rebecca White, Fannie Flagg, Mary Kay Andrews, Kathryn Stockett, Joshilyn Jackson, Claire Cook, or Nicholas Sparks, you will adore Amy Conner’s warm hearted, funny, insightful, and brilliantly crafted writing style of Southern women. She is in a class all her own---definitely knows the Bible belt South, with “right on dialects”, accents, politics, cruel judgments, and pretentious quirky ways. I was traveling when I started THE RIGHT THING, and could not wait for time alone, to dive back into this engaging and heartwarming story of two small BFFs from both sides of the track (poor and rich). I escaped to the park for on a beautiful spring day, overlooking a duck pond and enjoyed a glider all to myself for hours until the last page, capturing every word – smiling throughout while cheering on these loveable women, hoping for a happy ending for these two gals. What a ride since seven years old and Barbie dolls with funky clothes.
The book definitely exceeded my expectations! I especially loved Annie’s mother - my favorite character. . ah you will love her- what a dynamic mother-daughter moment. Set in Jackson, MS set in 1963, Annie Banks (grew up in a wealthy home with a doctor father, a snooty mean grandmother, an eccentric great aunt, and her only salvation – a compassionate mom, with a real heart, a humble beginning, and a cool housekeeper).
When Annie meets her BFF at seven years old – Starr Dukes (daughter of a not so honest poor philandering preacher, left without a mother), she has found her best friend for life. The Queen for a Day, the Barbie doll clothes and the fun banter of comments were absolutely hilarious, and the dog – wow, what an imagination and storyteller! Annie and Starr become inseparable with a strong friendship, until the pressure from family tear them apart, and then one day Starr (this gal is full of one liners), is gone from her shabby rental house, as her preacher dad picks up to move to another town (guess he has stolen more money again from the offering plate or slept with one of the married church members). Annie is forced to follow the path of the well to do southern women – wearing the right clothes, driving the BMW, minks, jewelry, shoes, entertaining, marrying an ambitious lawyer, a size zero and no eating real food, filling her days with shopping, charity work, dreaming with endless failing EPTs and pretending to fit in to be the responsible women and live up to the life carved out for her. The story goes back and forth from present day, high school, college, to present day in Jackson, as years later after Annie is married to her high school sweetheart and successful lawyer, in an unsatisfying marriage and no hopes of ever getting pregnant and having a family of her own. One day, Annie (mid thirties) boutique shopping for a cocktail dress, preparing for yet another evening out with her husband’s law friends, where she has to pretend to fit in to this lifestyle and dinner with Judge Shapley (the big name in town), when a voice from her past walks in the boutique (none other than Starr), now pregnant and being dumped by Bobby Shapley (Judge’s son- wealthy and married to Julie – the girls nightmare from elementary school). So down on her luck, being kicked out of her condo, and no charge accounts, or car, Starr turns to her long lost friend Annie to drive her to New Orleans on the day before Thanksgiving, to get her money (from her friend a bet she won betting on horses, and holding for her). Of course, Annie is caught between helping her friend and risking her marriage, as no one befriends an outcast and other woman of the Shapleys. The outlandish scheme Annie puts together for this road trip escape to New Orleans was the funniest ever, you will laugh out loud! However, at the time, Annie was unaware exactly what this trip would bring, as fate steps in and how it would transform her life. From pot brownies, race horses, a dog on an elevator they take hostage, and guy turned to a woman, stranded, to chance meetings, and a special man - one wild road trip and a big surprise ending to seal both girl’s destiny! As Annie discovers what life is like to be true to oneself, instead of living a life through someone else’s eyes, she finds her happiness. As these two girls from both sides of the track, find they are more alike than they imagined. A story of friendship, a bond standing the test of time, love, and responsibility and one which will warm your heart filled with mischief and humor to the end (hoping for a sequel as would love to see more of these characters)! I am so in this age bracket, so could relate to these times. From romantic New Orleans to the political southern Jackson, MS, Amy Conner’s THE RIGHT THING, is truly a winner out of the gate, moving and witty -- will keep you turning to discover the fate of these two special friends. I highly recommend to anyone loving southern women’s fiction, and so look forward to following this talented author!
A special thank you to Kensington Books and NetGalley for an ARC, in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.
About the Author
Amy Carolyn Conner was born in Cheyenne, WY to Dr. and Mrs. Weir Conner III. The oldest of four girls, she attended grammar and high school in Jackson, MS, graduating from Murrah High School in 1974. She completed her BA in philosophy with honors from Newcomb College of Tulane University in New Orleans, LA in 1982 after having taken a three year break in her college career at the strong suggestion of her dean and other parties concerned about her cavalier attitude towards her schooling.
Subsequently, Ms. Conner spent the winter and spring of 1978 at The Yorkshire Riding Center, a riding school in Harrogate, England, returning to the US to hold down menial jobs in the horse industry for three years. After she’d had enough of this, she returned to college as an older and wiser woman of 23 and got serious about her education, changing her major from ceramics to philosophy with a concentration in ethics.
She also got serious about Zachary Casey, a fellow philosophy major and native New Orleanian. They married in May of 1982, settled in New Orleans and six months later Mr. Casey took a position in his family firm that required relocating to Singapore. After strenuous objections, Ms. Conner eventually moved there as well and lived in Singapore for a year to the day before returning home to New Orleans to have her first child, Fionn Casey in 1984. Five years later, her second child, Rue Casey, was born.
Ms. Conner’s work history includes (but is not limited to) the following professions: runway model, private investigator, horse trainer/riding instructor, oriental rug and antique salesman, legal secretary, executive assistant and t-shirt designer. From 1986 to 2006, she was part-owner with her husband of the world’s largest alligator farming concern and during that time worked in the skin business with Hermes in Paris, Gucci in Milan and other high-end designers of premium luxury strap goods. During this period, Ms. Conner often traveled in Europe to promote the business and fell in love with Paris and the French people.
Having spent fifteen years on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain in Covington, LA, in 2004 Ms. Conner returned to the city she loves most, New Orleans and lived with her family in the French Quarter until 29 August, 2005 when the levees broke and the city flooded. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, she relocated briefly to an awful condominium in Jackson, MS, coming home to N.O. as soon as was humanly possible. The storm’s impact on the alligator business was devastating and so the farming operation was lost to a hostile takeover action from Mr. Casey and Ms. Conner’s business partners in Santa Fe, NM.
Mr. Casey and Ms. Conner divorced, amicably enough, in 2006, and are still best friends.
Ms. Conner began writing in earnest at the advanced age of 50, having come to the realization that she couldn’t be an athlete (horse trainer) forever. The Right Thing is her second novel.