Lust, luck and larceny at the Opry
Sassy Sarah Jean falls for long-fingered guitar picker Bobby Lee Crenshaw and gains glorybut gets the bootat the Opry. And Calvin Klein's true ancestry is revealed at last. Kathi Kamen Goldmark has written a fast-paced, wisecracking debut novel, And My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You, that takes readers on the road and backstage for an intimate look at the country music business. This funny, touching tribute to honky-tonk music and musicians rollicks through three eventful years in the life of backup singer Sarah Jean Pixlie as she zig-zags between the iconic country music palaces of Nashville and the funky Dewdrop Inn, a northern California roadhouse she calls home.
Shoes opens against a brisk backbeat of lust, catastrophe and luck: Bobby Lee romances Sarah Jean, then jealous country diva boss Cindi-Lu Bender fires her. And all because Sarah Jean is nominated for a coveted "Patsy" award for her chart-climbing song, "Heartaches for a Guy." Jobless and blue, but hoping for fame, Sarah Jean heads home to hide out at the Dewdrop. Seclusion, though, is not to be. Sarah Jean and her loving, eccentric family of blood kin and friends must face the challenges of cheating hearts, unexpected motherhood, sudden fame and crooked music producers.
Goldmark, a singer-songwriter who founded the all-author band, the Rock Bottom Remainders, infuses her novel with zest for a good country song. She has cleverly woven her own songs (and some by fellow Rock Bottom bandmates) into the book, disguised as her characters' original compositions. There's the spiritually litigious "Jesus Is My Lawyer Now," and the slyly prosaic "Tupperware Blues" (lyrics by Dave Barry), which poses an eminently practical posthumous alternative to cryogenics.
This book will beguile those with a passion to sing softly in the secondary spotlight or strum guitar to a hard-drivin' tune. But those who hanker merely for the inside scoop on Calvin Klein's real antecedents will have to, as they say in the publishing business, "Buy the book!"
Alison Hood is a freelance writer in San Rafael, California.