Ma Smith and the He-Man Woman Haters
Harold D. Renshaw
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Ma Smith and the He-Man Woman Haters
Harold D. Renshaw
210 pages
June 2005
rated 2 1/2 of 5 possible stars
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A near century-old barn is claimed by a self-ordained minister to be his new pulpit from which to do God’s duty as told to him by God himself. He mostly appears to the Reverend Brutus Tuesday on rooftops. The story unfolds, introducing us to characters like the Reverend Tuesday, Ma Smith (a strange and jarring combination of caring and sarcasm), and Officer Bungo, who handles his job by doing things such as chasing petty thieves straight into the homes of citizens without a thought as to his rights or manners.

The book opens with a scene where Officer Bungo has chased the local petty thief, Elmo, into Ma Smith’s kitchen. Ma Smith, with her peculiar brand of loving sarcasm, demands that Officer Bungo unhand Elmo and that they both sit down to a meal of her soup while she gets to the bottom of how to best humiliate Bungo. Her soup is ladled out of a pot on her stove that, according to town legend, not a soul has seen the bottom of for a few decades or more.

From here the book takes a curve into the past and begins to wind down the road toward a barn and various odd characters concerned with the barn in some manner or another, including a few women who have vanished while in the vicinity of said barn. Several chapters later, the confused reader is led back to the starting point from which the author has decided they should begin reading the present-day tale. It takes a chapter to figure out that this is the same time period as the beginning incident in Ma Smith’s kitchen with Officer Bungo and Elmo, by which time the reader is either enthralled with the author’s quirkiness and twists in the plot or has given up entirely on trying to follow along. Which is just what I did - give up.

Renshaw’s first novel is worth mentioning and worth a read on a short vacation. I personally would like to see a revision of his ideas into a more concise tale.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Lucinda Tart, 2005

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