Devils in the Sugar Shop
Timothy Schaffert
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Buy *Devils in the Sugar Shop* by Timothy Schaffert online

Devils in the Sugar Shop
Timothy Schaffert
Unbridled Books
246 pages
April 2007
rated 3 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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This frothy comedy of errors is filled with an eccentric mélange of characters: Ashley Allyson, who teaches an erotic writing workshop in her home; Troy, Ashley’s cheating husband; Deedee Millwood, entrepreneur of the very lucrative Sweet Shop (home parties featuring sex toys based on the successful “Tupperware” format); and African-American Vivienne Dailey, a visual artist and the most recent victim of a stalker who sends slightly disturbing collages of prominent Omaha ladies with assorted body parts.

Adding to the confusion is Deedee’s daughter, Naomi, who has a crush on Ashley’s son Lee, recently come out to his family and friends. Not to be left out are the twins, owners of the local bookstore Mermaids Singing, twenty-somethings Peach and Plum. Peach is the current focus of Troy Allyson’s extramarital affection. All come together one chilly Omaha night, pre-Valentine’s Day, acting out their various dramas with panache and a certain poignant relevance.

Deedee has just persuaded best friend Ashley to host a party for their intellectual, artistic friends. Imagining a happy reconciliation with her attractive ex, Zeke, Deedee is unaware that their friend Viv has been holding smooching soirees with him after art class. Ashley, unaware of Troy’s extracurricular activities, worries about Lee and his recent embrace of the gay lifestyle, although she and Troy have brought heir son up to be a literate eccentric.

Slightly sophisticated, slightly urbane, the three friends navigate a comfortable social milieu, their assumptions unchallenged, save the occasionally raucous novelty sex parties of prim Omaha housewives. But like any city, anywhere, reality lurks just beneath the surface.

On that fateful night, everyone converges on a swingers’ party that Troy is researching for his newspaper, The Omaha Street, no one quite sure what to expect. Ashley, newly alerted to Troy’s infidelity, hopes to catch him in the act; even the teenaged children converge on the party, determined to confront the errant husband. Not to be denied, a bevy of drag queens rounds out the guests, approaching the party with their usual enthusiasm.

These unique characters, none of them mean-spirited, come to terms with the challenges they face, putting aside their cherished fairytale endings in favor of the practical demands of maturity. With broad humor and a talent for the inanities of modern life, the author’s spirited protagonists face their failed dreams with equanimity, celebrating the absurdities of the human condition, an endless capacity for forgiveness and the willingness to endure for the sake of those we love. While not every complaint or sorrow is resolved, the spirit of hope prevails, even in Omaha.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Luan Gaines, 2007

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