The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat by Edward Kelsey Moore. Reviewed by Louise Hilton.
Edward Kelsey Moore’s debut novel The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat is a stunner. The story traces the decades-long friendship between three women in Plainview, Indiana, from their high school heyday, when they were first dubbed the Supremes (it was the ’60s, after all) at their local hangout Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat diner, the first black-owned business in town, to present-day, as they still congregate every Sunday after church at Earl’s for peach cobbler with a side of gossip.
The three best friends are prim and proper Clarice, once resigned to her husband’s chronic infidelity but now determined to move on and forge a path for herself, the fearless and outspoken Odette, who gets regular visits from her long-deceased mother (more on that later), and Barbara Jean, the quiet beauty from the wrong side of the tracks whom Clarice and Odette “adopt” in high school.
Moore deftly alternates between the days of their youth and the present, fleshing out the history of each character. Clarice’s story becomes all the more poignant when we learn that she sacrificed a promising future as a concert pianist to marry her football star boyfriend and raise children. I dare your heart not to ache reading about Barbara Jean and her adolescent love affair with one of the waiters at Earl’s, a romance doomed at the time because it was a biracial one (again, this was the ’60s). As for Odette, she can trace her fearlessness to her very first day of life, when her superstitious mother went to consult a witch about her overdue baby and ended up giving birth in a sycamore tree.
Now for more on Odette’s visits from beyond the grave – Odette’s mother, as strong-willed and tough as she is, drops by regularly accompanied by none other than a hard-drinking Eleanor Roosevelt. Still with me? I admit I was skeptical at first as to where Moore was going with this improbable plotline, but it definitely adds flavor to the story.
Yes, we’ve seen these character types before (the society wife determined to keep up appearances, the sassy and loyal friend who’s unafraid to speak her mind), but that’s not to say they’re not worth revisiting. The bond of female friendship is always popular fodder for novels and Moore certainly does it justice. Reminiscent of another powerful debut, Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat is a beautiful read and a tribute to small-town life. It just works – boozy Eleanor and all – and I can’t wait to see what he writes next. And Odette? Officially my new favorite (fictional) person.