Brian Clary’s Home Cookin’ is a fun, spirited tale surrounding a seasoned legal secretary who joins two co-workers to seek justice for a widowed childhood friend.
When problematic Texas attorney Louise Barbour drops dead in her office, her ne’er-do-well son orders her longtime assistants Gertie, Dorothy, and Lupe to farm out all the cases and vacate the premises. The discovery of a waylaid file regarding a woman who lost her husband to asbestos-related cancer, however, prompts Gertie to impersonate her deceased boss and handle the troubling lawsuit.
In this story’s world of moon pies, barbecue, and the shared revelation of the secret ingredient for the best collard greens, Clary details the small-town charm and community connection that gives Gertie and her cohorts the home advantage as she’s forced to litigate against a pompous big city lawyer. Clary introduces a creative cast of vivid characters, from client Nelda, with her paralyzing fear of elevators, to a judge who suffers from the “green apple trots.” The story is also infused with a hefty amount of dialogue, ranging from “boys will be boys” banter and Lupe’s struggles with English to conversations exploring racial prejudice.
Clary aptly draws upon his own experience as a trial attorney to provide a detailed courtroom setting. The lawsuit’s seriousness contrasts nicely with the humor—i.e., a sangria hangover, comical trial glitches, and clever peanut-gallery antics that test a judge’s patience—woven throughout. Readers will find inventive surprises and twists along the way, including a wrap-up that brings the story full-circle.
The story isn’t perfect: While the first-person narrative draws us into the heart of Gertie’s predicament, there are moments when the lengthy diatribes of secondary characters seem like filler. Additionally, the courtroom drama often stretches the letter of the law, and the text needs proofreading,
But for those who like to cheer the underdog, the final verdict on Home Cookin’ is that it’s a smart, entertaining read.
Also available in hardcover.