When I heard that Ken Wheaton had penned a novel I immediately asked for a review copy. The review copy arrived and then I used it to beat myself. What was I thinking? Why would I want to review Wheaton’s novel? What if it sucked?
I knew Ken was from Louisiana, even with a column in Ad Age (a far cry from fiction), you can hear the storytelling in his voice. I can thank my lucky stars (and never request a press copy again) while I tell you that The First Annual Grand Prairie Rabbit Festival
is a joy to read.
If you’ve ever had someone outside your family care for you, you’ll love Miss Rita. Heck, if you’ve got a soul, you will love Miss Rita. Miss Rita embodies every wacky caregiver we all had. Father Steve Sebille is the goofy guy next door, turned Priest, Miss Vicky is a little bit of all of us.
I can’t review each character. Much like Capote, Gaines and Toole, Wheaton brings characters to life, and the plot (though important) plays second fiddle. The richness, the vibrancy, the humanity of each of the characters Wheaton shares with us, fairly leaps off the page.
Here’s a blurb from Amazon:
Welcome to Grand Prairie, Louisiana – land of confounding accents, hard-drinking senior citizens, and charming sinners – brought to hilarious life in a bracing, heartfelt debut novel simmering with Cajun spice…Father Steve Sibille has come home to the bayou to take charge of St. Pete’s church. Among his challenges are teenybopper altar girls, insomnia-curing confessions, and alarmingly alluring congregant Vicky Carrier. Then there’s Miss Rita, an irrepressible centenarian with a taste for whiskey, cracklins, and sticking her nose in other people’s business. When an outsider threatens to poach Father Steve’s flock, Miss Rita suggests he fight back by staging an event that will keep St. Pete’s parishioners loyal forever. As The First Annual Grand Prairie Rabbit Festival draws near, help comes from the strangest places. And while the road to the festival may be paved with good intentions – not to mention bake sales, an elephant, and the most bizarre cook-out ever – where it will lead is anyone’s guess.
The bottom line is this. Once I hit the halfway mark, I read this book at the rate of about two pages a day. Why? I didn’t want it to end. I wanted to savor it. I wasn’t ready to be done with Father Steve so quickly.
A fabulous read. Enjoy it.
I have one issue with the book and it’s a teeny tiny bit of a spoiler so don’t click through if you don’t want it.