Elly has not had an easy couple years. The main character in Elly in Bloom by Colleen Oakes found her husband in bed with… someone when she came home to surprise him with lunch two years earlier. She didn’t stick around long enough to find out who she was, loading her car with snacks, her wedding dress, and some clothes and abandoning her life in Georgia.
She drove until she hit St. Louis where she stopped into a cafe and got attitude from the cashier for asking for her hot chocolate with extra whipped cream. Apparently the cashier didn’t think that plump Elly needed the extra calories. Her future best friend Kim stood up for her, and the two unlikely women sat down and chatted. Elly went to Kim’s house that night and stayed with Kim and her husband Sean for a few months until she pulled her life back together.
In the intervening two years, Elly has created an entirely new life. She owns Posies, a florist in upscale Clayton, where she is highly in demand amongst brides in addition to “regular” weekday arrangements. When her new neighbor moves in, the hot musician makes a play for Elly, and she is finally dating for the first time since her hot artist husband was discovered in their bed. (You don’t sense a trend, do you?)
While Elly is moving on in her personal life, her professional life is turning into a disaster. Kim has been working for her designing since she opened the florist and has announced she’s quitting but won’t tell Elly why. And she’s booked the biggest wedding in her career – with a budget of $45,000 for the flowers alone. The stress is only worsened as Elly eventually discovers that the wedding is that of her ex-husband and the red-haired woman Elly found together.
The book is a delight, and I love the characters moving in and out of multiple plot lines throughout Elly’s life. With periodic flashbacks, you are able to understand Elly as she is today and how she got that way without feeling like it’s being simply told to you. Elly herself is a delight. You want to root for her, as clumsy and socially awkward as she sometimes is, even though she makes choices that make you want to look away from the train wreck. Being discovered by her tour group lost in a winery drinking from the cask is just one of the cringingly hilarious scenes.
And yes, Elly is plump. Nowhere, not on one page, is there ever the mention or suggestion that Elly losing weight will change her life or make everything perfect. There is no diet or “cure” for her curves that will solve all that ails her, and I love that. You can see early in the book that Elly has a fairly unhealthy relationship with her ex-husband and that she never felt worthy of him, an artist who she supports financially. Watching her grow – slowly – throughout the book is a treat.
With all the pitfalls and foibles that each character has, the book becomes a pleasant and fun reflection of our own lives, from the safe distance of the pages, of course. The characters are a hoot, although the snooty wedding planner Lizette is a little over the top even for the charicature she is meant to be. I adore Keith, the sandwich shop owner who lives next door, and Snarky Teenager – who has no other name in the book – is endearingly obnoxious, the kind of person I wish I had the confidence to be at her age.
This is the first novel by Colleen Oakes, and it’s no surprise that there will be a follow up novel Elly in Love coming next spring. You can bet that I’ll be reading it!
Written by Michelle who is grateful that her life is filled with none of the drama of Elly’s, as exciting as it is. See what does fill her days as she shares them on her blog Honest & Truly! or follow along with her on Twitter where she is also @HonestAndTruly.