In Lisa Patton’s first novel, Whistlin’ Dixie in a Nor’easter, Leelee Satterfield leaves Memphis to support her husband’s dream of opening an inn in Vermont. One traumatic year later, Leelee and her daughters return home without her husband, who has left her for another woman, and without Leelee’s beloved Yorkie. (Princess Grace Kelly now lies buried in the cold Northern ground.) Despite these losses, Yankee Doodle Dixie opens with Leelee in a state of hope. She hopes all will be well when she gets home to Memphis, where her four best friends live, and where Kissie, her childhood housekeeper and true mother-figure, is still willing to fulfill that role for Leelee and her children. Perhaps most of all, Leelee remains hopeful that her fledgling romance with Peter, the chef from her Vermont inn, will survive her migration south.
Naturally, she does not find things at home the way they were before she left for Vermont. Once the darling of the country-club set and the wife of a handsome college quarterback, she’s now a single mom who must find a new home, a job, and a place in a social milieu that is strictly for couples. Leelee tries to keep her spirits up, but her beloved home town is not the heaven she remembered during the frozen winter in Vermont: even her beloved Memphis is having an uncharacteristically long cold spell.
Although she finds a place to live, it is next door to an unexpectedly quirky neighbor. And although she finds a job at a radio station, her boss is a nasty bully, and the DJ desperately needs a handkerchief and a sense of personal space: “Nice dress you have on today,” he tells her, “his breath a looming stink bomb on the horizon.” Perhaps most depressing of all, Peter decides a long-distance relationship is too difficult, and there’s no way he can move to Memphis without a job waiting for him.
What’s a Southern girl to do? In the course of this comic novel that Booklist calls “fast and funny,” Patton takes Leelee on a journey that, despite some wrong turns, reminds her of what she’s truly capable of. And Yankee Doodle Dixie will keep fans of Patton’s previous novel happily amused with realistic descriptions of Elvis week and a behind-the-scenes glimpse of a rock concert tour. (Patton also answers that age-old question: which is more fun—hanging out with an Elvis impersonator or a self-absorbed rock star?) Readers will laugh along with Leelee as she once again discovers her strengths in her home town.
Lisa Patton will read from and discuss Yankee Doodle Dixie as part of the Evening with an Author series at the University Club of Nashville on October 27 at 6 p.m.