The characters in Talk of the Town are each one of a kind and go hand-in-glove with the setting. Imagene shines as the voice of the Dailyians. Her way with a story, told in the language and cadence of small-town Texas, had me laughing out loud in places. (Wingate could have gone lighter on spelling out the accent though.) Imagene’s friend Donetta, proprietor of the beauty parlor complete with exercise room and choice of three exercise tapes, is another star on the comic side. Carter, on the other hand, is the straight and is just mysterious and strong enough to be a match for feisty first lady Mandalay. She would have come off as a somewhat cold and trying-to-be sophisticated bumbler if the chapters narrated by her hadn’t been countered by Imagene’s segments where we see her vulnerable side. Ursula is the ultimate in evil bosses and comes to life mostly in Mandalay’s imagination via her thick Swedish accent.
The themes Wingate addresses range over singleness, love, community values and faith. Both Imagene and Mandalay are single and facing their share of issues over it. I enjoyed watching Imagene morph from the timid, depressed widow to someone eager to again take risks. Wingate explores family love through Amber’s family, especially the way her brothers treat their drunken granddad. Romantic love also gets lots of space. The story plays out in a town where the Christian faith is a foundation value and loyalty to the town’s own comes before pretty much everything else. Finally, Carter plays a big role in showing us how faith comes to the rescue in tough times.
This lively tale of Hollywood getting its comeuppance is sure to delight. I expect Talk of the Town to be a big hit when it comes to bookstores next month.