Monday, July 9, 2012

Joe Jones

I like author Anne Lamott. A lot. Sometimes I dream that she arrives on my doorstep with her dreadlocks, best-friend-the-priest, and a book of poems by Rumi and announces that she is my long lost Aunt who has come to drink coffee and talk about life until the wee hours of the morning. Sometimes, in my dreams, we listen to Dawes together and smoke on the porch. Sometimes we go to church together and bake the blackberry cobbler of my youth.
Suffice to say, I follow her on twitter and buy her novels when I see them because I want her to feel loved so she keeps on writing.
This was the case with Joe Jones, which I dutifully read, cover to cover.
Even though I really only like her nonfiction.
Even though the first few pages of dialogue were so confusing that I finally had to stop trying to figure out who was saying what because I knew if I didn't I'd have some kind of mind-melt-down.

Joe Jones is the story of a motley crew of regulars at Jessie's Cafe - a small town diner who find themselves a make shift family, leaning on each other through joy, tragedy and the everyday monotony of life. A bit like Grace Diner if you're familiar with Gwen Mansfield's work -  but with fewer characters and more bad decisions.
Also, Jessie's Cafe had a very strange relationship to the menu. Every day at the diner was a different version of simple and good. Banana muffins. Burgers and fries. Cold beer, enchiladas with rice and beans, pie, and apricot upside down cake.  I don't know about you, but no restaurant I've worked in had the money or following to just serve whatever the staff felt like making that day.

But I digress. 

Most of the characters were loveable without being exactly likeable. A bit like the neighborhood kids you played with as a child who you now read about in articles sent you by your mom from The Bremerton Sun that shows that while they are older, fatter, and spent some time in Juvie, now maybe they direct community theater or coach youth basketball, and gosh darn it you're happy to see them smiling, knowing that it could have just as easily have been you. Bittersweet, I suppose is the word I'm looking for. From the get go, you just KNOW that Georgia, Joe, Willie and Louise won't ever have the kind of soaring success that you could root for in The Hunger Games.  But your heart just kind of aches whenever they get a little love and affection, knowing they will probably get knocked down again, but - sigh - at least they have each other.

I fear sometimes that I won't ever have the kind of soaring success I desire. That the best people will die and I'll meet my prince charming but he won't be able to move out of his mother's house. That all I will be left with is a motley crew of regulars to share the monotony of my everyday. I think Anne Lamott worries about this too, and in Joe Jones, was just trying to remind herself and me that maybe, just maybe that's not as bad as it seems.

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