After months of playing the lottery and hoping for an uptick in her dog-boarding business, Janet’s friend Annie must face the inevitable: the bank is foreclosing on her family farm. But thanks to the Rejected Writers’ Book Club, Annie doesn’t have to face it alone. With just a few weeks to raise the $20,000 that she and her fifty rescue dogs need to avoid becoming homeless, the writers need a fund-raiser, and fast. Much to Janet’s horror, Doris has another crazy plan: a musical extravaganza.
To produce a miracle for Annie, Janet and her friends will work around the clock holding auditions, concocting elaborate costumes, and getting a little too close to blowing themselves up—but will it be enough?
This is the second in the Southlea Bay series and it was a delight to return the crazy, colourful and highly entertaining world of the Rejected Writers' Club. If you haven't read the first book it doesn't matter, this works just as well as a stand alone. Kelman is very good at filling the reader in with any information that they need in a non evasive manner with a succinct recap to allow you to pick up the story and tell you know all you need about the key characters to enjoy this second foray into the usual chaos, hilarity and heartwarming adventures of the eclectic gang.
Our protagonist, Janet, is our narrator for some of the chapters. She is an engaging and witty observer of events as she tries to "navigate her way through all shades of crazy that is small town life." She joined the Rejected Writers' Club a few years ago and took them on a road trip across America as they attempted to get one of their manuscripts rejected. Yes, you read that right - they wanted to get a contract to publish one of their novels rejected! As their name suggests, the Rejected Writers' Club is a group of women who have been writing terrible novels and keeping a collection of their rejection letters which they then share with each other on a monthly basis.
This book opens with Doris Newberry on the warpath ready to construct a ludicrous plan to help raise some money for Annie whose farm has been threatened by the bank unless she can raise a huge amount of money.
"The words 'Doris Newberry' worked faster than 'abracadabra' to create disappearing tricks all over Southlea Bay."
Doris is a vibrant soul, but actually all the characters in this story are distinctive and vividly portrayed, literary and metaphorically full of colour and very easy to visualise.
"[Ruby] had opted for an ensemble she was calling "prism joy", if people asked, with inspiration from the rainbow colours that bounced around her shop from the crystals hanging in her windows."
Ruby is also on a 'detox' which does not go down well when the group meet for an emergency meeting in the cafe and she asks for hot water with a squeeze of lemon.
"I can bring you a lemon, but you will have to squeeze it yourself. Squeezing lemons for people who don't have the strength because they are not eating is not in my job description."
Doris suggests that the Rejected Writers' Club put on a musical in order to raise the money needed to save Annie's farm. Before she knows what has happened, just like in book 1, Janet has found herself volunteering to make the far fetched suggestion become a reality.
"Had I agreed to direct a stage show? The words got stuck in my brain, like soap in a colander. I didn't know the first thing about directing a show."
Neither does anyone else in the group. Neither can any of them sing, dance, act or direct. But that is not going to deter them. Especially when Doris decides to hold auditions with a very clear list of what they are - or are not - looking for in their prospective cast and crew. Her poster details this so anyone bold enough to step up to the challenge is clear about what is required of them:
"No late arrivals, no loiterers, no time wasters, no kids, no food or drink, no bad singers, no bad dancers, no bad actors. Come on down it will be fun."
But against all odds, the one thing the Rejected Writers' Club can ensure is fun. And they will always rise to a challenge. Against all odds!
The Rejected Writers Take to the Stage isn't just about a chaotic, eclectic group of women, it also has a sub plot of a love triangle between three characters and also explores issues of friendship, love and small communities.
This is a great, lighthearted novel about a charismatic group of women. It has echoes of things like "The Calendar Girls" and "Big Stone Gap". As with Book One, it would make a fantastic TV series or film. Kelman's writing is fast paced, entertaining, lively and enjoyable. If you are looking for a bit of escapism, a place to lose yourself for a while, a story about friendship and pulling together then this is the book for you.
The Rejected Writers Take to the Stage is published on 6th June 2017 by Lake Union Publishing.
Link for Amazon
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Link for Goodreads
1. Janet's chapters are narrated in the first person but the other chapters are narrated in third person. Why do you think the author has decided to include some sections in third person rather than just narrate the whole story from Janet's point of view?
2. Is there another character who you would like to hear from in first person? Why?
3. There are a lot of characters in the novel and they are all distinctive and vividly described. Did you find the characters convincing and authentic? Did you enjoy the fact that some are more like caricatures? Which characters did you enjoy or identify with the most?
4. Do you think this is simply a novel to enjoy as light relief or do you think there are more serious issues explored in the novel? What other themes do you think are addressed?
5. If you were to cast for a screen adaptation of this novel, who would you pick to play some of the lead roles?
6. If you were to choose a soundtrack for this novel, which three songs would you select to accompany it?
7. What did you think about the inclusion of an Epilogue? Did it work for you?
8. What do you think is in store for the Rejected Writers Club? Would you like to read more adventures?
Suzanne Kelman is the author of the Southlea Bay series and an award winning screenwriter. Born and raised in the UK she now lives in Washingtom in her own version of Southlea Bay with her husband Matthew; her son, Christopher; and a menagerie of rescued animals. She enjoys tap dancing, theatre and high teas and she can sing the first verse of "Puff the Magic Dragon" backwards.
Kelman's accolades include the Best Comedy Feature Screenplay award from the 2011 L.A. International Film Festival, the Gold Award from the 2012 California Film Awards, and the Van Gogh Award from the 2012 Amsterdam Film Festival. She is also the co-author of the comedy book, Big Purple Undies.
Librarian Janet Johnson is puzzled when she is invited—and practically dragged—to her first meeting of the Rejected Writers’ Book Club. This quirky group of women would much rather celebrate one another’s rejected manuscripts over cups of tea and slices of lemon cake than actually publish a book. But good friends are exactly what Janet needs after moving to the small town of Southlea Bay, Washington. Just as the ladies are about to raise a teacup to their five hundredth rejection letter, they receive bad news that could destroy one member’s reputation—and disband the group forever. To save the club, Janet joins her fellow writers on a wild road trip to San Francisco in search of the local publisher who holds the key to a long-buried secret. As they race to the finish line, they’ll face their fears—landslides, haunted houses, handsome strangers, ungrateful children—and have the time of their lives.
You can read my review of The Rejected Writers' Book Club here.
You can buy a copy of The Rejected Writers' Book Club here.
For more recommendations and reviews follow me on Twitter @KatherineSunde3 or via my website bibliomaniacuk.co.uk