“Ella in Bloom” by Shelby Hearon
Admit it – When you return home after a long time away, or see someone you haven’t seen in forever, don’t you try to look your best and radiate success and happiness? I do. I sure do. I mean, I don’t pretend I invented post-its or anything, but I’ll put on makeup and maybe buy some new shoes. (There was a Romy & Michelle reference buried in there. You’re welcome.)
The titular heroine of Shelby Hearon’s “Ella in Bloom” takes this everyman idea to a whole new level. She’s widowed, after a failed marriage, and a mother to a teenage girl. Oh, and she lives in a crappy house. On paper in letters to her mother, however, she spends her time in her elegant rose garden and wearing expensive clothes to eat at fancy restaurants. The death of Ella’s older sister, followed by her mother’s hospitalization, bring to light a whole bunch of family secrets and sends everything and everyone spinning. Ella’s sister Terrell, the favored child, may have been having an affair, and Ella finds herself falling for Terrell’s widower husband.
Hearon is a lovely writer, and “Ella in Bloom” is beautiful at the same time it’s heartbreaking. It’s sad to think that people don’t think their own lives are good enough to present to their families or the world without a gloss of fiction and frills.
Where I got it: For $1.00 at Chicago’s Boystown Brown Elephant store.