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Easy Reading:

Love and a Bad Hair Day
by Annie Flannigan
William Morrow Paperbacks

Last weekend I did something I rarely do: I woke up before noon. Why? To make a hair appointment scheduled at eight in the morning. When my alarm clock rang out at seven, I stumbled out of bed, nearly died as I tripped over my sleeping dog and fought like hell to make my hair look tame before entering the public. This fight should have signaled flares, somewhere, that this was only the beginning of my day fit for a nightmare. For 20 minutes I was stuck behind a colossal Twinkie, otherwise known as a school bus, with tiny tots taunting me through the glass as they peered down into my windshield. Tongues stuck out, they fanned and wiggled their fingers beside their ears, and I hadn’t had my coffee yet. Again: a nightmare.

Yes. I missed my hair appointment. Given the premise of last month’s book-club read, “Love and a Bad Hair Day,” at the pull of the first knot on my head, and at the sight of the first curly tendril that refused to stay put in my elastic band, I should have stayed in bed.

Over the month readers thumbed through the pages of Annie Flannigan‘s book, day-tripping through Verbena, North Carolina, where its residents practically made us family. Only one issue arose on its pages: Readers had to decide which family they wanted to belong to. “Love and A Bad Hair Day” centers around the O’Malleys and the Hadleys, whom for generations have been Verbena’s most famous and notorious feuding lineage.

First, we meet main character Jolene Hadley Corbett, owner of the only hair salon in Verbena. Mostly, she spends her free time with her best friend, Emma, her son and her elderly grandmother. Her one salient characteristic: If she had a bad hair day, she was certain everything else would go terribly wrong. Cue the sudden the death of Howdy O’Malley, Verbena’s stingy manager of the town’s most popular hotel and all-day breakfast house South Winds Trav’O’Tel and All-Day Buffet, which spins Jolene’s happy and naïve world into tangled knots as her lifelong crush, Ryman O’Malley (Howdy O’Malley’s grandson) bolts back into town—and he’s not interested in hair. Instead, he’s ready to exact revenge by demolishng the South Winds forever, collapsing the local economy and finishing the families’ feud once and for all.

Like every chick-lit or rom-com, readers of “Love and a Bad Hair Day” can guess by the end of page 30 Ryman’s ideal demise of the Hadleys will not go as smoothly as he dreamed. Needless to say, Jolene’s feelings throw a wrench in Ryman’s cold-hearted plans, which pay off in the future. That said, readers who were hoping for a country bumpkin’s backwoods version of “Romeo and Juliet” got their wish: an easy read, like a Sunday ride, where the main characters went beyond their hysterically overwhelming yet unimportant circumstances. There were no twists or turns here—not a single plot point readers couldn’t see coming a mile away, but as book worms wrote in, they certainly didn’t mind.

“At first, ’Love and a bad Hair Day’ didn’t appear to be all that special, or original for that matter,” wrote new club member, Kellie J., “but once I let my guard down and just enjoyed the work for what it was meant to be, silly and easy, the novel ended up becoming a lighthearted run with a vigorous heroine and comical villains that almost seem too cute to be called ‘villains’ in the first place. Really, I’m not too much into chick-lits, but, on the flip side, I don’t think spring is a great time for reads, like you suggested previously, centered on the serious. It was a good choice to break down our winter wall.”

As many know, I’m not one to readily love chick lits either, but Kellie J. is right: “Love” was an admittedly enjoyable and entertaining read. Maybe because it was so ridiculous and silly, no one can not surrender to its absurdity. Either way, we should sport T-shirts that say, “I survived the Hadley-O’Malley Feud!”

“I found this novel somewhat similar to one of your top five novel choices of 2010 in a previous article you wrote,” book-club contributor Donna Lacroix noted. “Clyde Edgerton’s ‘Raney’ focused heavily on two people falling in love, but also having to work around and oblige their lives with the demands of their differing families. So, too, does, ‘Love and a Bad Hair Day.‘ You could on some level describe Flannigan’s piece (if you looked beyond a few editing typos) to be the trivial spring-time version of a serious tale of diametrically opposed lovers. We are promised nothing less and receive nothing more than a kind read. ”

Though a tiny bit juvenile, “Love and A Bad Hair Day“ is a PG romance with a heavy emphasis on what makes families tick. With a light-hearted Southern speed highly appropriate for the pace of our Port City, Flannigan’s dysfunctional fairytale will definitely crack a smirk to all readers (men excluded).

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