The Cotton Queen
When it comes to misunderstandings, the ones between heroes and heroines of romance novels pale beside those between mothers and daughters. That’s the theme of The Cotton Queen, Pamela Morsi’s sometime funny and sometime poignant woman’s novel set in a small town near Dallas that follows the lives of Babs Hoffman and her daughter Laney.
This is a novel that the reader needs to discover for herself, so I will give only a brief summary. Babs Hoffman grew up with her aunt and uncle in McKinney, Texas. She was the quintessential small town girl, who was a tad disappointed to be only the runner-up in the Cotton Queen pagent. But on the whole, Babs had a wonderful childhood and married Tom Hoffman, her high school sweetheart.
Babs would have been happy to stay in McKinney, but Tom wanted to see a bit of the world, so he joined the Air Force as a mechanic. They had a little girl whom they named Alana, and called Laney. Tom was learning the mechanic’s trade, Laney was a beautiful little girl and he and Babs loved each other. Then Tom was killed in a freak accident and Babs and Laney went back to McKinney.
Babs moved back to McKinney for several years, but after conflicts with her in-laws, she wanted to make her own life and moved to Dallas – close enough to come back to see her family but far enough away to be independent. She got a job at a trucking company and rented a duplex. Things looked promising until she was attacked by her neighbor, which shattered her life and forced her back to McKinney. The attack and its consequences have an impact on the rest of Babs’s life and indirectly on Laney as well.
The Cotton Queen is told in alternating first person views from Laney and Babs. It covers a long period of time, and speaking as someone who grew up during that period, I saw myself in both Laney and Babs. I empathised with Laney’s desire to go out and spread her wings, but I also agreed with Babs in her respect for tradition.
Laney sees her mother as nothing but a June Cleaver clone and has no idea of the pain suffered by her mother as Babs will not speak about it. Laney seems to act in only one way – the exact opposite of what Babs would do, and they spend considerable time knocking heads. But they are never totally estranged, and for both of them, age brings wisdom and perspective and in the end, when Laney’s own daughter is in the Cotton Queen festival, things come full circle.
I have all Pamela Morsi’s Americana romances and look on them as some of the best in the genre. With this book, she shows she is very much at home in women’s fiction. I normally am not a major fan of this genre, but if all women’s fiction was as good as this book, I would be. It’s funny, it’s touching and very often I found myself nodding my head and remembering my own thoughts and actions in those of Laney and Babs. If you are in the mood for a good nostalgic book that will make you think and cry and laugh as well, this is the one for you.