Sisters Rue and Laura Anderson live together on Sassy Spinster Farm in Texas, along with Rue’s middle-school aged daughter, Erica. Though making ends meet hasn’t been easy, Rue and Laura rely on a constant stream of paying guests who come to stay at the farm and learn about how it works to supplement their income. Rue is really the hostess; Laura is bitter about almost everything in her life and isn’t exactly a welcoming presence. Rounding out the group is Webb, who moved to the farm to help out when things got tough and hasn’t left. Inexplicably in love with Laura, he’s running out of patience waiting for her to come around. Into this complicated web of relationships strolls Heidi, Rue and Laura’s ex-stepsister, who is about as unwelcome as she can be. But Heidi is running from something in New York and needs to hide from life for awhile. Recognizing this, Rue invites Heidi to stay for as long as she wants to.
Miss You Most of All is a heartwarming women’s fiction novel that relies on the strength of its characters. Rue is a generous, sweet woman who only sees the best in people. The adversity she’s faced has made her strong, yet there is something delicate about her. She’s easy to love, and the reader identifies with her from the first page.
Laura, on the other hand, is a little more difficult - surly, bad-tempered and unpleasant. It’s easy to immediately dislike Laura and write her character off, but somehow, she worms her way back in. Despite her unpleasantness, the reader can’t hate her; she becomes a sympathetic, sad character who doesn’t know how to express herself. Author Elizabeth Bass tells the story from each major character’s point of view, so rather than just standing to the side and judging Laura, the reader gets to see some events through her eyes. We gain an understanding of why she is the way she is; despite the fact that she’s a difficult person, the reader can’t help but root for her.
Heidi is another surprise. Had Miss You Most of All followed a typical women’s fiction path, she would be spoiled, ungrateful and rude. Instead, she reflects Rue’s kindness and generosity of spirit, though not necessarily her patience with Laura. She adjusts easily to life on the farm, trying as hard as she can to be helpful. Yes, she makes some mistakes along the way, but she is a lovely character overall.
The last main character, Erica, is a little out of place. Her story doesn’t mesh as well with the others. Though she is well-developed as a character and I don’t think the author should have neglected her, I’m not sure the reader needs to see things from her point of view and travel along her path, as it so diverges from the other stories.
Miss You Most of All could have been cheesy and full of women’s fiction clichés, but Elizabeth Bass has instead created a fresh, surprising novel. Kensington Books puts out a lot of quality women’s fiction, and this book is no exception. Fans of the genre should definitely plan on picking this one up and falling in love with its characters - and with Sassy Spinster Farm.