Any book which starts with a quote from It’s A Wonderful Life is just fine by me. But this book was more than just fine, I absolutely loved it! Janet Johnson is a librarian in small town Southlea Bay on an island in the Pacific Northwest of America, where the biggest excitement in her life seems to be trying to discourage raccoons from distributing the contents of her rubbish bin all over her garden. That is until she gets a call from the formidable Doris announcing “I need you to come to my house tomorrow afternoon. There is a meeting of my rejected ladies here and you’ll fit right in.” I think this was probably the first time I laughed out loud but it certainly wasn’t the last!
The rejected ladies are all failed writers and they come together to share their latest rejection letters. They are aiming for a celebration when they reach 500 letters but then the unthinkable happens and one of them has a manuscript accepted! This is where Janet comes in. To save the club she is persuaded to take the ladies on a road trip to San Francisco to persuade the publisher to give it back. The adventures they have on the way are so entertaining. I loved the scene where they are all trapped by the snow in a cottage. I could just picture them gathered round Ronald Tramp, fearfully hanging onto his every word as he tells his tall tales. Janet and the ladies also meet up with her daughter Stacey, with whom she has a rather strained relationship.
The characters which Suzanne Kelman has created are fabulous. The twins Lavinia and Lottie couldn’t be more different, Annie is always looking for a loo (she has my sympathies there!), Flora falls madly in love for the first time. Doris is very much in charge and is not someone you would argue with. There was so much humour in this book, really funny scenes that are guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. Even the chapter titles made me smile “Lemon Cake and Loonies” being just one example. And the rejection letters were hilarious!
“Dear Mrs Newberry, Thank you for sending us your manuscript Love in the Forest, but at the moment we are only looking for manuscripts that have a plot, a setting, interesting characters, understandable dialogue, a conflict, a main character, and .. a point. As your manuscript meets none of the criteria, we will have to pass on this project. Yours sincerely, Myrtle Williams”
Suzanne Kelman wraps her story up beautifully with Gracie’s story and with a more hopeful future for Janet and her daughter Stacy. The quotation used at the beginning from It’s A Wonderful Life is “No man is a failure who has friends”. By the end of the book, Janet has made real friends and there was a real sense of community and kinship between the ladies. I can’t tell you how pleased I am to see that this book is listed as book 1 in the Southlea Bay series. I can’t wait to revisit the residents of the town, who feel like friends now. I want to be a rejected lady too!
My huge thanks to the publishers, Lake Union Publishing, for allowing me to read a copy of this book via Netgalley. The Rejected Writers’ Book Club is available now as an e-book and will be published in paperback on 29th March 2016. You can order a copy here: The Rejected Writers’ Book Club
From the back of the book
When small-town librarian Janet Johnson is persuaded to attend a gathering of local eccentric lady writers known as “The Rejected Writers Bookclub,” she gets pulled into a kaleidoscope of craziness she never knew existed.
Collecting publisher’s rejection letters like trophies, this quirky society cares nothing for being in print and instead meets to celebrate in style its members’ mutually spurned manuscripts.
However, when disaster strikes just shy of their 500th letter and a huge club celebration, the group’s survival hangs in the balance, and Janet finds herself railroaded into a madcap mission to save it. Coerced by their formidable team leader, Doris Newberry, she embarks on a crazy cross-country dash with a band of merry writers to save the club and the reputation of one very special member.
As the intrepid adventurers race to complete their quest, the women’s lives are irreversibly changed as they bond together through landslides, haunted houses, false labor, and first love.