Tomlinson was a new-to-me author and one whose website All Things Southern was a place I had never ventured. Julie from Book Hooked Blog recently raved about the book, and comedian Jeff Foxworthy wrote a blurb saying it was "laugh-out-loud funny," so I decided it must be worth my time.
Sue Ellen's Girl is not necessarily a book you have to read from cover to cover; it doesn't tell a story. Rather, it is chock full of Tomlinson's own stories about life in the south (and southern relatives), her readers' stories, definitions of southern sayings, and delicious-sounding recipes. I will admit that I felt a little behind, not having read the author's book Suck Your Stomach In & Put Some Color On! or having visited her website. Tomlinson frequently references things in the book and stories from her book tour.
However, that just means I'll have to go back and read it at some point! I can definitely relate to the title. My whole life first my maternal grandmother and then my mother have encouraged me to "put a little color on" because otherwise I look "peaked." I won't reveal exactly when my mom let me start wearing mascara, but it was well before middle school. After all, I have her eyebrows and eyelashes, meaning when we have no "color" on, we look ill. When people who have never seen me sans makeup see me for the first time, they invariably think something is dreadfully wrong!
My favorite part of the book, hands down, were the absolutely mouth-watering recipes Tomlinson included. Apparently, she regularly includes recipes on her website, so there's no doubt I will be making my way over there frequently! Her daughter Jessica Ann (discussed fairly often in the book), also has a food blog called Kitchen Belleicious, another place I'm sure I will be frequenting. (I mean, seriously -- she recently posted both Spicy Crab and Roasted Red Pepper Mac and Cheese and Nutella Coconut and Caramel Brownies. Can you say YUM?!)
Another fabulous part was the way Tomlinson defines southernisms -- you know, words or phrases that southerners use all the time, that mean absolutely nothing to those outside the region. I'm not going to spoil the book by telling you the definitions, but should you happen to pick up a copy of Sue Ellen's Girl, you will be privy to the following vocabulary:
- weighing heavy (that one is obviously included, given the title, right?)
- the get-go
- six ways to Sunday
- wet your whistle
- broke fellowship
- nekkid as a jaybird (as opposed to just plain "nekkid")
When I finished reading Sue Ellen's Girl, I had a virtual fan of bent-down page corners -- things I wanted to remember to go back and look at again. Most of them are one-liners, things that I just needed to share with you when I reviewed the book, because they spoke so strongly to my own life or
upbringing. Here are some of those excerpts:
"All I'm saying is that there are times -- hormonal times -- in every woman's life when she's just one bad decision away from a Fudge Frenzy" (8-9).And finally (this could go on indefinitely, as many things as I have marked in this book), a story from one of Tomlinson's readers:
"MSS stands for Male Speaker Syndrome, a condition I identified that causes our men to sweat while ordering at drive-in windows. . . . For all those frustrated females struggling to reach over the console and holler into the sound system because Daddy is sweating over the burger order. . . . " (44).
"Where I come from, making it through the night was obviously much more than a barometer of health. It was also used to assess a family member's concern, or lack thereof, as in 'Why, she hasn't even called to see if I made it through the night.'" (60)
"I have considered marketing a Southern GPS, you know, one with a good double Southern name, some new and improved manners, and a more pleasing personality. . . . Not only would [Mary Elisabeth] be more considerate and understanding when you missed your exit, but she'd help prevent such unfortunate mistakes way ahead of time by saying things like 'Pardon me for interrupting, Sugar, but you need to be getting in the right lane. Ya'll gonna have to turn up the road a piece -- right beside that house where the little boy with the big ears is riding his bicycle in the driveway. Good Lord, I wonder if his mama has ever thought about having those things fixed. You can, you know.'" (133)
"My 4-year-old daughter told her preschool teacher (my co-worker) before our egg hunt last Friday . . . 'Mrs. Shelly, it's a sad, sad day.' Shelly asked her why. She said, 'The Easter bunny isn't real and Michael Jackson is dead.' Shelly, who was trying her best to contain her laughter asked her, 'How do you know this?' Prissy looked her dead in the eye and said very matter-of-factly, 'Just check out YouTube,' and walked away."In short, you want to read this book. It may not be a fine piece of literary fiction, but it will make you shake your head and laugh your tail off.
~ Jamie Ainsworth McBride
Shellie Rushing Tomlinson can be found at her website All Things Southern, on her blog For Whom the Belle Blogs, and on the radio Mondays from 5-6pm CST.