Book Review: Secondhand Smoke

Secondhand Smoke

Patti Friedmann


240 pages

A Confederacy of Dunces meets The Corrections in Friedmann’s (Eleanor Rushing) warm and wacky tale of family dysfunction and redemption, set mostly in New Orleans .

I saw this blurb on Amazon and that was it for me.  I was looking for books set in New Orleans but the comparison to Confederacy of Dunces put me over the edge!  For anyone who doesn’t know, which is probably all most of you, CoD is one of my all time favorite books.  Actually, it is in the top two (along with Gone with the Wind), so any book comparable to it is worth a chance in my eyes.

Jerusha “Ru” Bailey is an older woman with two grown children, son Wilson and daughter Zib.  Her two children stay away from home for years until the death of their father, at which point they return home.  They are convinced that their loud and irritating mother is to blame, at least in part, for their father’s death.  He has been living in a cloud of smoke for decades, as Ru is constantly smoking.  Hence the title.  Zib and Wilson are struggling to come to terms with EVERYTHING.  Their relationship as siblings, their own lives, their pasts.  Meanwhile, Ru is on an adventure of her own, which includes finding her husband’s ashes in a McDonald’s parking lot (at which time she proceeds to transfer the remains to a paper McDonald’s bag) and culminated in her sleeping in the bushes by the library with her dog.

Unfortunately, I wouldn’t say Secondhand Smoke lived up to my expectations.  I can see why it was compared to CoD, both because of the setting as well the character of Ru.  Had the book been solely from her viewpoint, I am sure it would have been a better fit for me.  As it stands though, the book was like a drama and comedy merged and it didn’t work for me for that reason.  Wilson and Zib were so serious and their viewpoints took away the comical aspect of the book.  But then you have Ru’s chapters that are laugh out loud funny at some points.  Perhaps if Friedmann had stuck to one extreme or the other, it would have fared better for me.

Other Reviews:


I borrowed this book from my local library.

One Response

  1. I’ve never read Confederacy of Dunces, but the mention of The Corrections got my attention. Think I’ll look into CoD first…

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