Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

Salvation, Chick-Lit Style

In Tamara Leigh’s new novel, a former mean girl finds redemption and love in her hometown

In her youth, Maggie Pickwick was a cheerleader and beauty-pageant winner with no qualms about tormenting the less popular girls in her class. She also had her pick of the high-school boys—and her refusal to choose at all meant that when she became pregnant, three different boys might have been the father. By the time of the events in Tamara Leigh’s Nowhere, Carolina , however, Maggie has come a long way. Helped ironically by the mother of one of the girls she picked on in high school, Maggie is now a born-again Christian who works hard to be a good mother to her own pre-teen daughter, Devyn.

But Maggie discovers that the past spirals more than it circles: for one thing, her daughter is more like the nerds Maggie once picked on and is now facing her own tormentor. Second, Devyn has become interested in knowing more about her father. And perhaps worst of all, one of the candidates, the only one who never knew Maggie was pregnant, has returned to town with few good memories of the Maggie he knew. Readers of chick-lit novels will know the direction this is going, and Christian chick lit is no different, except that it has less sex. Still, Tamara Leigh is able to throw in some curve balls and the ending, while hopeful, is anything but pat.

Nowhere, Carolina is the second novel in Tamara Leigh’s bestselling Southern Discomfort series; each one features a different member of the very eccentric Pickwick family. While the book is overtly Christian in nature, more secular readers will enjoy the novel’s appealing and very human characters. Maggie wants to do the right thing, but she also wants to have her own way—including keeping her daughter in the dark about the mistakes she made in high school. In fact, all the characters defy simple classification. Even saintly Skippy, the woman who takes in the pregnant Maggie in, defies stereotype: Skippy “was surely the inspiration for Peg Bundy of the once-popular sitcom Married with Children—bouffant hair, large nose, and a wardrobe right out of the seventies. All that’s missing are outlandish high heels, and only because she broke an ankle when she fell off them several years back and her doctor forbade her to wear anything over an inch.” But Skippy is also the mother of the girl Maggie bullied in high school, and Maggie wonders how the girl must have felt about having to see her tormentor every time she came home from college.

The moral dilemmas are real, but Maggie Pickwick’s spunk and sense of humor keep the tone fairly light. Leigh makes no bones about her Christian themes, but the novel never feels preachy. It’s a fun summer read, and with no shortage of eccentric Pickwicks populating the town, readers can hope for many more Southern Discomfort tales to come.

Tagged: