Eighty-four year old Lola Quinlan, the jaunty, flamboyant, and vivacious main protagonist of Lola’s Secret (October 2012) by Monica McInerney, is the most interesting character I’ve met in a long time. Yes, her clothes are ostentatiously gaudy and her make-up is smeared on a bit too thick. And maybe she is an outspoken busy-body. But she is also pithy, poignant, and outrageously funny. Alert and sassy, Lola is the most wonderfully wise, caring, and loving family matriarch anyone could have. After reading this delightfully sweet literary novel about family, relationships, happiness, loss, and reconciliation, I yearn to meet Lola in real life. Oh, what lively long discussions we would have!
Set in southern Australia’s Clare Valley, Lola’s Secret is the sequel to The Alphabet Sisters, the first in the Quinlan family saga. Lola, a single mother with three grown children, two grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren, is part owner and resident of the Valley View Motel, operated by her son, Jim, and his wife, Geraldine. They and their two daughters, Bret and Carrie, along with their own families, are about to embark upon Christmas holiday vacations leaving Lola, at her insistence, alone to run the motel and continue her volunteer work at the local Charity Shop. Secretly, computer-savvy Lola plans a free Christmas Special for six guests, whose back stories are related in alternating chapters. McInerney fleshes out her mesmerizing plot line with Lola’s friends at the shop; Emily; Luke, and the self-aggrandizing Mrs. Kernaghanall add spice and texture to Lola’s meddlesome, but well-meaning antics and adventures.
McInerney’s writing is down-to-earth. Her true-to-life characters and believable intertwining plots and sub-plots mesh nicely together like a jigsaw puzzle. This, her seventh novel, sparkles with wit and touching moments, pinpointing the finer nuances of familial interactions that both grace and blemish domestic lives. I particularly liked the subtly different relationships that Lola has with each person in her life. McInerney has a fine author’s eye for discerning dissimilar personality traits and incorporating them into in-depth analyses. She also has a knack for including a bit of suspense and intrigue that keeps one reading on to find out what happens next. I also liked the descriptions of Clare Valley, McInerney’s own homeland, which made it an integral part of Lola’s story.
My only complaint is that the overly long “Epilogue” read like a main dénouement. Many parts of it should have been incorporated into the main story line and not tacked on as afterthoughts. However, there are strong hints in it of continuing the Quinlan family stories. Perhaps the author, hopefully, has a third Lola novel in mind?
Monica McInerney (no relation) is an excellent writer. Her skills are most evident in this novel about kindness—being kind to oneself and to others—and, as we learn from Lola, about having fun. While reading Lola’s Secret, best suited for young adults and older, I certainly did.
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