“A marriage is like a pet poodle. Poodles have a certain life expectancy. But lots of times, the poor thing just keeps on ticking and takes a licking.” This is Mary Bliss McGowan’s philosophy on marriage. Her point? No one knows for sure when it’s over and all relationships have a force of their own.
Life is good for Mary Bliss, the oh-so-proper, very Southern wife of a successful Southern gentleman. She has a devoted husband who always keeps the lawn looking neatly trimmed and lush, a daughter who, at sixteen, is more polite and loving more often than any child at that age than I’ve ever known, a nicely decorated house in Fair Oaks, a peaceful suburb of Atlanta, and the summer off from teaching.
But Fair Oaks has a dark side. It appears that most of the married folks on the block are either divorced or in the process of splitting up. The couple across the street, who Mary Bliss always thought were so happy, are separated, and the not-so-devoted wife has been making whoopie in the parking lot of the local Winn-Dixie. Her best friend, Katharine, is also going through a messy split. Mary Bliss sympathizes, offers a shoulder to cry on, but never believes anything like that will happen to her. Until she finds the note.
Late one night, after a few too many drinks with Katharine at the Fair Oaks Country Club, Mary Bliss discovers two things: a note from Parker saying he’s left, and an empty bank account. She’s stuck with a mortgage to pay, a daughter to support, and a husband to find. But when a woman grows desperate, thoughts start popping into her near-crazy head. What if Parker died? Wouldn’t there be insurance money? And if no one knows where Parker is, couldn’t she claim he was dead, stage a funeral, and collect some cash? Why not?
Little Bitty Lies by Mary Kay Andrews is a funny, sad, sometimes embarrassing, often hysterical story about how far a desperate woman will go to protect herself and her child. Her positive perkiness is somewhat grating, and I can’t help but think also a little unhealthy, but it is so much a part of who Mary Bliss is that the plot wouldn’t work with a more down-to-earth, cynical woman. Down-to-earthy, cynical women don’t stage their husbands’ deaths; they hire someone to make those deaths realities.
Andrews’s work can be summed up as Chick-Lit-Meets-Southern-Comfort. The women, all different but in many ways the same, are strong and intelligent, even if they don’t always make the best choices. I often found myself cringing as I read more about the plan to kill off Parker, but I also could see the logic behind her plan. When life hand-delivers you a basket of crap, should you just accept it? Or maybe fling some back at the person who sent it? And Mary Bliss is given a LOT of crap in this book, from her jerk of a husband to her daughter to her nightmare of a mother-in-law. Heck, I wouldn’t have been surprised if she’d gone even more off the deep end and fed them all arsenic.