The year-long reprieve granted to Maura Beth Mayhew’s beloved library is coming to an end, and all manner of chaos is about to commence.
Readers of Ashton Lee’s “The Cherry Cola Book Club” may have breathed a sigh of relief as the debut novel in this series ended, but with the publication of “The Reading Circle,” be prepared to start worrying all over again.
Good old boy Councilman Durden Sparks is back to his plan to shut down the library in the small Southern town of Cherico, Miss., and level it for an industrial park he’s bound and determined to leave as his legacy.
But librarian Mayhew and her band of book-loving friends who meet monthly – for food, fellowship and a literary fix – as members of The Cherry Cola Book Club are just as resolute that Sparks will not succeed in his self-serving plan.
Once again, Lee’s characters – those from the first novel and some newly created ones – gently force the reader to care about them and how they handle the conflicts, small and large, they face.
An early bit of discord is handled with discussion and aplomb, when the male members of the book club voice their unhappiness with the choice of the next book the club will read.
With only a small amount of friction, a Eudora Welty novel is put on hold to placate the men who want to read Winston Groom’s “Forrest Gump,” which deals with two of their favorite things: football and food.
With Sparks once again breathing down her neck with threats of destroying the town’s library, Mayhew musters the troops who help develop ideas to save the library – once and for all – while dealing with their own personal heartbreaks and life issues.
Lee, a native of Natchez who now calls Oxford home, has written a story with the power to evoke anxiety, laughter, maybe even a tear or two. He even hits on an issue or two that appeals to the socially conscious among us.
And before the last page is turned, you’ll feel like letting out a rousing cheer.
In today’s world, there are books aplenty that take readers to dark places, often leaving them there.
CHECK IT OUT
• Title: “The Reading Circle”
• Author: Ashton Lee
• Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corp.
• Pages: 242
• Price: $15,Trade paperback original
Ashton Lee will sign copies of “The Reading Circle” from noon until 1:30 p.m. Monday, March 31 at Reed’s Gum Tree Bookstore in Tupelo.