August 2020
THE BOOK OF CAROLSUE
by Lynne Hugo
Kensington Publishing
8/25/2020
Fiction
Paperback, 224 pages

 "Hugo deftly combines whimsy and longing, old grief and newfound joy. With her unique and compassionate voice, she writes about loss and redemption in a way that makes you laugh out loud one minute, tear up the next."
—author Diane Chamberlain

"Hugo... walks a perfectly balanced tightrope as she illustrates how political conflicts are woven right into the heart of an Indiana farm family. I lost hours of sleep as I raced to finish this extraordinary novel."
-author Randy Susan Meyers

Award-winning author Lynne Hugo returns with a life-affirming, poignant novel in the spirit of A Man Called Ove—a story brimming with both wit and warmth about how a family gets on, and goes on.

CarolSue and her sister, Louisa, are best friends, but haven’t had much in common since CarolSue married Charlie, moved to Atlanta, and swapped shoes covered with Indiana farm dust for pedicures and afternoon bridge. Louisa, meanwhile, loves her farm and animals as deeply as she’d loved Harold, her late husband of forty years.

Charlie’s sudden death leaves CarolSue so adrift that she surrenders to Louisa’s plan for her to move back home. But canning vegetables and feeding chickens are alien to CarolSue, and she resolves to return to Atlanta—until Louisa’s son, Reverend Gary, arrives with an abandoned infant and a dubious story. He begs the women to look after the baby while he locates the mother—a young immigrant who fears deportation.

Keeping his own secrets, Gary enlists the aid of the sheriff, Gus, in the search. But CarolSue’s bond with the baby is undeniable, and she forms an unconventional secret plan of her own. How many mistakes can be redeemed?
Dear Book Club Members,

Like many of you, I imagine, I’m a wife, a mother, a grandmother, and a working woman. I’ve had many transcendent joys, as well as the unspeakable grief of losing a child. Life down to the bone. When I read a novel, I’m willing to have my heart broken and my eyes fill if the characters strike me as real, if they raise serious questions more than they offer easy answers. I also want the characters to make me laugh, because how else will we manage life if we don’t laugh? I love a novel that I can’t wait to discuss with my friends and recommend to my girls and my sister. The tears and laughter of recognition: those are what I hope to evoke with my stories. I hope you’ll find a great deal to discuss in The Book of CarolSue.

It was important to me to write about the fragility and vulnerability of our lives as women, which is equaled only by our strength and resilience. I wanted to show CarolSue taking her life in her own hands, an older woman with agency and independence, rising up to deal with the blows life has dealt. I came to love and respect her, and I hope you will too. I’d love to hear your thoughts, anytime. I’m also happy to join all or part of a book club discussion virtually to answer questions, discuss books, or the great mysteries of life. I’m tapped out on recipes, having given you my decent one, but I can raise a glass of wine or mug of special tea with you as we toast the joys of reading with friends and the saving power of love.
  
With great gratitude,

Lynne Hugo
THE BOOK OF CAROLSUE
Book Club Menu
In The Book of CarolSue, one of the ways Louisa drives her sister CarolSue crazy is by growing enough vegetables to feed a town or two and insisting they must be just about the only thing they eat. But even CarolSue doesn't object to this dinner, which can be vegetarian, as Louisa would have it—or modified to CarolSue’s preference by adding in browned and drained Italian sausage. It's a very forgiving recipe, and you can just adjust the amount of each ingredient depending on how many people you're serving. The vegetables should be more important than the pasta, Louisa mutters now over my shoulder, while CarolSue shouts from the other room, "Add the sausage!" 

Sauté lots of fresh mushrooms and zucchini chunks with onions in a little olive oil in a big skillet, and then add a can of Hunt's diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano (you might need an extra half can or even two cans, depending on how large a crowd you’re serving). Season liberally with more dried Italian seasoning and lots of whatever you have on hand that passes for garlic— I often just use garlic powder or jarred minced garlic. Then toss it all in a big serving bowl with some hot, al dente Ronzoni Super Greens rotini pasta (you can use other rotini if you want) making sure you don't use too much pasta in relation to the vegetables. Mix in browned Italian sausage if you decided to annoy Louisa. You'll have to taste (suffer for your friends!) to decide if you have the seasoning right; I usually end up adding more. Once it took CarolSue a whole bowlful to decide it didn't need any additional seasoning. Shredded parmesan cheese (plenty!) on top of this is nice, and it's good with crusty Italian bread. Of course, it's best with abundant red wine—in a glass, not added to the ingredients. If you're feeling ambitious, a green salad is good to have with this, too.

CarolSue and Louisa have a thing for their mother's bourbon balls as a treat, but bourbon balls hardly go with a pasta dish, so they might pass on dessert or just have some cookies with fresh fruit. A while after dinner they might have Special Tea—particularly if they were in a passionate discussion about anything at all, but especially a topic sparked by a book. Special Tea involves any old tea, lemon slice, a nice big spoon of honey, and a splash (two? three?) of bourbon. Wild Turkey is what Louisa and CarolSue keep on hand, but that is, obviously, because of devotion to the animals on and around the farm. I suspect if Wild Turkey weren't available, they'd endure another brand.

-Lynne Hugo
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