The Dairy Queen
The Dairy Queen describes Dicey Dye’s return to her tiny Australian hometown of Moo after her business fails and she separates from her husband. Along with her sister Titch and best friend Sally, Dicey must learn to face her problems instead of avoiding them, while developing the self-awareness to decide what’s really important in her life.
The story opens with Dicey and husband Jean-Luc’s anniversary dinner where they both confess to having an affair. Their subsequent separation is the last straw in an extremely stressful year for Dicey. Because Titch and Sally are also experiencing personal crises, the trio decide to escape reality for a few weeks by going home to their old small farm town of Moo. As the women spend their time in Moo working through their problems and looking for solutions, they each begin to realize that they’ve known all along what they want.
Dicey had begun a tiny pajama-selling enterprise, which became a multi-million dollar company in the blink of an eye. When the business went under just as quickly and brought Dicey tons of bad publicity with it, she began to shut out the kindness of her husband and others who cared about her in her pain and humiliation. As her marriage started to go the same way as her business, Dicey pushed Jean-Luc away in spite of the fact that she still loved him. After a few weeks of moping around Moo, she comes across her wedding pictures and begins to remember all the happiness and hope she once felt.
Titch’s problem is that she has been unable to get pregnant despite endless doctor visits and fertility treatments, and she doubts whether she and her husband are even meant to have a baby. After a very public breakdown on her morning news show, Titch’s enforced leave of absence leads her to wonder if it’s all worth it, especially considering the poor example of motherhood she and Dicey got from their unstable, drug-addicted mother who only sporadically popped in and out of their lives, leaving the two of them to be raised by their grandparents.
Sally is a success professionally, but her personal life is something else. With three failed marriages under her belt, she is prone to excessive drinking, serial dating, and embarrassing public outbursts. After breaking her ankle in a drunken restaurant incident, Sally is unable to work as a wedding photographer, and she goes along to Moo to try to figure out at what point her life started to go downhill.
As the story is told in first person by Dicey, we don’t get the same insights into Titch’s and Sally’s minds as we do Dicey’s, but we get to know Dicey very well. The book is more character than plot driven, and not much occurs besides visits to town and meetings with old friends and acquaintances, but the three main characters, and Dicey in particular, slowly attain a new maturity. Introspection is key, and I found myself feeling for Dicey when she tried to piece together her broken marriage. Since the adultery confession was made at the beginning of the book, on both sides, I was not inclined to feel sympathy for Dicey since I figured she got herself into that mess, but as I got to know her better I began to hope that she and Jean-Luc might have a chance after all.
The main problem I had with The Dairy Queen is that it’s told in the present tense, apart from illustrative flashbacks. I believe it’s meant to convey a feeling of immediacy, but it often seemed to me that the author wasn’t sure of what she was saying. I also really disliked the beginning of the book, and so had a very difficult time getting into it. And something stupid happened at the end which left me shaking my head, but the story was engaging enough that I was able to get past these problems.
Overall, I’d place the book as a mix between chick lit and women’s fiction – while it’s mostly lighthearted and fairly uncomplicated, there is also a certain amount of maturity and seriousness to balance that out. It’s a good read for anyone who might be looking for a short break from a regular diet of romance or chick lit, but doesn’t want to break away from the positive elements of the genre.