Review by Peggy Kassees
Take a small Southern town. Add a mental institute for the criminally insane, one of the most beautiful rivers in Florida, and characters so vibrant they stay in the reader’s heart and mind like longtime friends and family. Then throw in Rhett DeVane’s exquisite sense of humor and finely tuned writing. And right there, folks, you have Cathead Crazy, another one of Rhett’s books featuring the fictional characters who call Chattahoochee, Florida, their hometown.
Cathead Crazy takes the reader through the life of Hannah Olsen as she comes to terms with her elderly mother’s failing health. Hannah must juggle working full-time with being a wife to Norman, mother of two teenage children, and taking care of her own mother while wading through full-blown-heat-packing menopause. At one point, Hannah tears up the on-ramp of Interstate 10 heading west.
Worry rolled off her as the mile-markers passed. By Marianna, she wouldn’t be a mother. By Pensacola, she wouldn’t be a wife. By New Orleans, she would cease to be Mae’s daughter. Maybe by the time she crossed the California border, she would be someone else entirely.
How many times have people wished they could walk away from a tough situation? Get in their cars and drive, drive, drive? Rhett is not afraid to have her characters express all the fear and joys of the human experience. Her characters are intricate individuals who are as real as rain on a toad-stool, dew on pecan trees, and frost on a camellia bush. She paints with compassion the struggle family members experience as they watch Ma-Mae deal with her ill health. Readers witness the inner strength Hannah shares with her children. Through the tears, the laughter flows, like when Ma-Mae worries about “that new virus going through town”—a deadly virus afflicting those who use computers too much, as Ma-Mae reasons.
Learn how the inhabitants of a small town gather and support each other. Laugh as Hannah and her friends take up belly-dancing. Love the relationships between Hannah and her mother, brother, sister, and other family members. Smile at the devotion Hannah feels for her husband and their two children. Love the people, the writer, and the book.
The setting for Cathead Crazy is reminiscent of Saint Petersburg, Missouri, Samuel Clements’s fictional town in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Rhett’s writing evokes Samuel Clements’s style of humor and use of colloquialisms that exude a sense of place and time. Each writer with the deft stroke of pen or flick of fingers on keys carries readers to the exact place they need to be: Saint Petersburg, Missouri, or Chattahoochee, Florida. Home.
Rhett DeVane’s novel invites you to come, sit a spell, have a glass of sweet ice tea and read about the folks who live “cathead crazy” in Chattahoochee. Learn, laugh, and love. Bless your heart.
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