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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

Famous in a Small Town

ISBN: 978-1525805073

Publisher: Graydon House

Publication Date: 06/13/2023

Format: Other

My Rating: 5 Stars (ARC)

Bursting with memorable characters and small-town lore, Viola Shipman's enchanting new novel is Fried Green Tomatoes meets Midnight at the Blackbird Café, a magical story about the family you’re born with, and the one you choose.

For most of her eighty years, Mary Jackson has endured the steady invasion of tourists, influencers and real estate developers who have discovered the lakeside charm of Good Hart, Michigan, waiting patiently for the arrival of a stranger she’s believed since childhood would one day carry on her legacy—the Very Cherry General Store. Like generations of Jackson women before her, Cherry Mary, as she’s known locally, runs the community hub—part post office, bakery and sandwich shop—and had almost given up hope that the mysterious prediction she’d been told as a girl would come true and the store would have to pass to…a man.

Becky Thatcher came to Good Hart with her ride-or-die BFF to forget that she’s just turned forty with nothing to show for it. Ending up at the general store with Mary is admittedly not the beach vacation she expected, but the more the feisty octogenarian talks about destiny, the stronger Becky’s memories of her own childhood holidays become, and the strange visions over the lake she was never sure were real. As she works under Mary’s wing for the summer and finds she fits into this quirky community of locals, she starts to believe that destiny could be real, and that it might have something very special in mind for Becky…

My Review

Master storyteller Viola Shipman returns following A Wish for Winter and The Edge of Summer with his latest summer charmer, FAMOUS IN A SMALL TOWN —a delightful and enchanting tale as we return to the simplicity of small-town life. Embrace the magic that lives within you. Learn the true meaning of family—the one you are born with and the one you choose.

Rich in history, character, time, and place, FAMOUS IN A SMALL TOWN is a beach bag essential to kick off the summer season!

In this quaint small town of Good Hart, Michigan, you will find nostalgia, loads of wisdom and wit, magic, family, intergenerational friendships, self-discovery, memories, heartwarming conversations, the historical and friendly Very Cherry General Store, roadside stands, colorful Adirondack chairs, Lake Michigan, farmhouses, scenic highways, breathtaking evergreens known as the Tunnel of Trees, great food, recipes, endearing characters, an escape—a place where everything is coming up CHERRIES! 🍒

Meet Mary Jackson, 80 yrs old, waiting for someone special to walk through her Very Cherry General Store door. She will know this magical person as soon as she meets them.

The General store is a lively hub of the town and the community. A post office, bakery, ice cream, a sandwich shop—it has it all, full of memories and great times. From locals to tourists, Mary is ready to pass on her legacy to the next generation.

Becky Thatcher, age 40, is on a road trip with her BFF. Life has not worked out for her the way she planned.

She ends up at the general store with Mary. Could she live in this quirky community? Is Becky the one to continue Mary's legacy in this magical town?

DAZZLING! No one can spin a small, town-endearing, alluring story like Viola Shipman. Fans anxiously await the summer sizzlers and the winter holidays for an extraordinary journey, and memorable vacations, where you never have to leave your chair. What better way to spend your time than with a Viola Shipman story?

Whenever you open a Viola Shipman book, you are magically transported—a heartwarming journey—your stresses fade. Viola has a rare gift of reaching into the heart and soul, bringing to the surface feelings, wants, desires, love, and memories that warm the heart.

Viola reminds you of simple things, days passed, the special people in your life, childhood memories, grandparents—learning to appreciate the beauty around you, big dreams, all things summer — new adventures await, belief in yourself, and most importantly, believe the legend you were meant to be AND "you cannot wonder if you do not wander"! Wade/Viola's smile will light up a room. His grandmothers would be proud.

A stunning package perfect for book clubs. As always appreciate the Author's note, recipe, readers guide, and a personal message from the President of Cherry Republic.

I adored FAMOUS IN A SMALL TOWN and hope it brings you as much joy as it did for me. From history, recipes, lore, and storytelling—it is always better with a cherry on top! The perfect beach read.

For fans of Mary Ellen Taylor, Heather Webber, Joanne DeMaio, Robyn Carr, and Sherryl Woods.

I cannot wait for November for The Wishing Bridge, a holiday gift set in the magical Michigan Bavarian Christmas town of Frankenmuth!

Thanks to #GraydonHouse for a gifted ARC via #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks

Pub Date: June 13, 2023

June 2023 Must-Read Books


Featured in Katie Couric Media's 'Let's Go Places: 30 Summer Novels'

A Reader's Digest Pick for '21 New Summer Books for 2023 That You Won't Be Able To Put Down'!

A GMA Pick: 'June Books that Everyone Will be Reading'!

"Full of summertime delight…and sweet, nostalgic charm, Famous in a Small Town is a beautiful reminder to…fully embrace the magic that lives inside you."

—Heather Webber, USA TODAY bestselling author of Midnight at the Blackbird Café

"A heartwarming story of determination, inspiration and creating your own destiny."

—Robyn Carr, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Virgin River series

Viola Shipman


Dear Reader:

Welcome! I am the USA Today and internationally bestselling author of fifteen books that have been translated into nearly 25 languages. I write fiction under the pen name, Viola Shipman, as a tribute to my working poor Ozarks grandma, whose memory and love inspire my novels and inspired me to become a writer. My novels are a tribute to family and our elders and meant to inspire hope. My grandma used to say, "Life is as short as one blink of God's eye, but we too often forget what matters most in that blink." As a result, my novels remind readers of what matters most in life: Each other.

My new summer novel, FAMOUS IN A SMALL TOWN (yes, like the Miranda Lambert song!), publishes June 13 and is available for preorder now. I'm honored that it’s being compared to FRIED GREEN TOMATOES and that Robyn Carr, #1 New York Times Bestselling author of Virgin River, is raving about it. It is a beautiful story about finding the magic that lives within each of us, and I know it will touch your heart.

Growing up in the Ozarks, my grandmas were my best friends. I never considered them to be “old,” I thought of them in the same way I did my friends from school. We played board games, we read books, we baked together, we floated in inner tubes down the creek holding hands, we danced to Lawrence Welk, we laughed watching Happy Days.

To this day, I’ve always had friends who were much older than me. In fact, some of my dearest friends today are in their 80s. I also have friends much younger than me and am a godparent to teenagers. Like all good friends, we not only support each other through the good and bad, but we also push each other to dream big and be our best selves. We lend each other individual strengths to make the other whole and stronger. We fill in those missing gaps in our souls. We all keep each other young.

This novel celebrates intergenerational friendships, and why it’s important in life – and in society – to look at people not simply at face value but within their hearts. This book celebrates the fact that there is no age limit on friendship, new adventures, taking risks and becoming the person you always dreamed of being.

This book is also a celebration of women, especially women who have to overcome incredible obstacles and hardships – and often bad men – in their lives to protect their families and come into their own. Much like my grandmas, the women in this novel use ingenuity, hard work, faith, a love of the land and a love for one another to soldier on with grace, determination, resilience and open hearts.

This novel, as all my novels do, celebrates the beauty and wonder of Michigan and its bounty along with loads of lore, such as the famed Fata Morgana, illusions that appear over Lake Michigan (are they real or not?). FAMOUS IN A SMALL TOWN place in the storybook (and very real) small town of Good Hart, Michigan, along the storybook (and very real) Tunnel of Trees. This is a breathtaking stretch of road in which the trees grow so dense they canopy the road for miles, choking out the sunlight and offering stunning views at every twist and turn.

I also used the very real, very quaint, and very historic Good Hart General Store as the foundation to create The Very Cherry General Store. There is no place more I love to visit in the summer or fall than this historic general store (look it up!).

If you are from Michigan, you begin to understand – in a very short time and especially in summer – that cherries are life. From a stop at a roadside stand to the very real Cherry Festival in Traverse City every year, this fruit is the cherry on top of Michigan. I love all things cherry, and it was a joy to bring them to life – history, recipes, lore – in this novel.

This novel started long ago on a summer vacation day in northern Michigan: I went to Cherry Republic, gorged on all things chocolate and cherry, and then – after a glass of wine – tried to spit a cherry pit as far as I could. I laughed so hard I cried. One of my friends said later that afternoon, as the sun was setting over the bay, “Now this was a quintessential Michigan summer day.”

I began to take notes that very moment and those early tendrils led to this novel.

That’s also a big part – and heart – of this book: Taking time to wander through a summer day, getting lost, acting like a kid, having fun, laughing with friends, having one too many scoops of ice cream, chocolate-covered cherries or glasses of wine. When you wander, you begin to “wonder,” in the true sense of that word, at all that surrounds you that we take for granted in our too-busy lives. Wander. Wonder. So close.

So wander and wonder away … and I will see you in November with my new Christmas novel, THE WISHING BRIDGE, a holiday gift if there ever was one, set in the magical Michigan Bavarian Christmas town of Frankenmuth.

As you read FAMOUS IN A SMALL TOWN, I just want to leave you with this: Be the legend you were meant to be.



About the Author

WADE ROUSE is the internationally bestselling author of nine books, which have been translated into nearly 20 languages. Wade chose his grandmother’s name, Viola Shipman, as a pen name to honor the woman whose heirlooms and family stories inspire his fiction.

Wade’s novels include The Charm Bracelet, a 2017 Michigan Notable Book of the Year; The Hope Chest; and The Recipe Box. NYT bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank says of Wade and his latest novel, The Summer Cottage: “Every now and then a new voice in fiction arrives to completely charm, entertain and remind us what matters. Viola Shipman is that voice and The Summer Cottage is that novel.”

Library Journal writes that Wade has “hit upon the perfect formula to tell heartwarming, inter-generational family stories by weaving together the lives, loves and history of family through cherished heirlooms.” He recently signed a three-book book deal with HarperCollins. His next novel, The Heirloom Garden, will publish in April 2020.

Wade’s books have been selected multiple times as Must-Reads by NBC’s Today Show, featured in the Washington Post, USA Today and on Chelsea Lately and have also been chosen three times as Indie Next Picks by the nation’s independent booksellers.

His writing has appeared in a diverse range of publications and media, including Coastal Living, Time, All Things Considered, People, Good Housekeeping, Salon, Forbes, Taste of Home, Country Woman, Writer’s Digest and Publisher’s Weekly.

Also a noted humorist of four memoirs, Wade was a finalist for the Goodreads Choice Awards in Humor (he lost to Tina Fey) and was named by Writer’s Digest as “The #2 Writer, Dead or Alive, We’d Like to Have Drinks With” (Wade was sandwiched between Ernest Hemingway and Hunter Thompson).

Wade earned his B.A. from Drury University and his master’s in journalism from Northwestern University. He divides his time between Saugatuck, Michigan, and Palm Springs, California, and is also an acclaimed writing teacher who has mentored numerous students to become published authors. WEBSITE


My novels are a tribute to my Ozarks grandma, Viola Shipman. The jangling of her charm bracelet was as ever-present as the call of the whippoorwill, the scent of her hope chest as vivid as cedars after a spring rain, and her burnished wood recipe box stuffed with family recipes that still make my mouth water.

Her heirlooms, life, lessons and love not only inspire my fiction but also inspired me to become a writer and, I hope, the person I am today. She taught me that the simplest things in life – family, friends, faith, fun, love, and a passion for what you do – are truly the grandest gifts. My fiction is meant to honor the elders in our lives whose sacrifices and journeys helped make us who we are today. I couldn’t be prouder of my novels, which I hope reconnect you to your own family’s stories, heirlooms, histories and traditions.


For more about the author, please visit Wade Rouse’s official website.



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