Review of The Flood Girls by Richard Fifield

The Flood Girls 12-10-15How does one love brazen, foul-mouthed women who throw their weight around, beer-guzzling-in-the-outfield female softball players, and their burly female audience who love to throw punches? I don’t know, but I do – I love this book and all its quirky, faulty characters.

Welcome to Quinn, Montana: Population 956.  A town owned by the headstrong, sassy women that have been there forever.  Laverna Flood owns the only bar in town, The Dirty Shame, which serves beer and shots – never mixed drinks because they’re too much trouble – to their regulars – the local silver-mining lesbians, the alcoholic widow of the local judge, and a dogcatcher who sucks at catching dogs.

Within the oppression of this small, poor town lives Jake Bailey, who at twelve already loves Jackie Collins novels, lives for fashion more than anything else, and savors finding his only privacy on the roof of his family’s beat-up trailer. Jake is the butt of jokes for most of the males in town, including his violent and cruel stepfather Bert.

When Jake’s only male friend, Frank from next door, kills himself, Frank and Laverna’s daughter, Rachel Flood, inherits Franks’ trailer and moves in. Because of her past drunken teenage escapades of sleeping with every man in town, including her mother’s boyfriend, no one is happy to see her. But Rachel has been attending Alcoholics Anonymous and decides she must make amends to the town she hurt so badly all those years ago, befriending Jake in the process.

Fifield’s residents of Quinn are one-of-a-kind characters who have weathered hardship, and poverty, and the cold Montana terrain, but maintain a fierce loyalty to each other as they struggle to survive.  Most of the women of Quinn are irreverent in their drinking, working, and socializing, but have a soft spot for two things: The Quinn ladies’ rag-tag softball team, and the team’s effeminate scorekeeper, Jake Bailey.

I felt especially drawn to the theme running through The Flood Girls – the battle against alcoholism through AA meetings, and the strong bond which develops between those whose lives have been ravaged by the bottle. Within Quinn’s only AA group, Rachel finds the most loyal friends she’s ever had.

Reminiscent of a John Irving novel, Fifield has given his characters an abundance of flaws, but with those, an abundance of feeling and heart as well.  Irreverence and surly behavior, accentuated by beer guzzling, is the façade which masks the inner turmoil of the people who have lived together their entire lives, intertwined within each other’s loves, and loss, and attempts to survive another day.

I’ve read a number of reviews that fault Fifield’s depiction of Quinn, Montana, as a town full of disrespectful, drunken trailer-trash who have no regard for anyone other than themselves; the reviewers resent the opinion they feel the author has made about rural, small town life and people.  But readers must remember – this is fiction!  Fifield is no more making a statement about all American small towns than Stephen King did about all winter resorts in The Shining. Whether part is based on fact, or the majority was created in his brain, Fifield has given readers a glimpse of a community who share more than just the drinks served at The Dirty Shame, or the ball thrown over the frozen, pothole-filled softball field.

The Flood Girls is definitely a must read!

Thank you Simon & Schuster for providing me with an Advance Reader’s Copy for review!

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