She's Gone Country
When I received Jane Porter’s second novel, I’d been sick in bed for nearly two weeks. Though the book helped pass the time, it did little to hold my interest. From this reviewer’s perspective, a true test of a novel’s worth can be answered with one simple question: Would I buy this book? As it pertains to She’s Gone Country, the answer is no, even if I were to set aside my general dislike of “chick lit.”
She’s Gone Country tells the story of Shey Lynne, a model who had a seemingly perfect marriage to a successful photographer. Essentially, she was one half of a glamorous New York City power couple—and then it all went to hell when her husband came out of the closet (a surprising twist, I’ll admit). Shey Lynne hightails it to Parkfield, the small Texas town where she grew up. It’s here that we’re introduced to her controlling Southern Baptist mother, rough and tumble brother Brick, uppity brother Blue, and the memory of her deceased brother Cody, a bi-polar schizophrenic drug addict who died too young and whose death haunts the family like a ghost.
It’s in this environment that Shey Lynne is raising her three sons, who are trying desperately to adjust to life in the sticks after enjoying a private school education and a privileged life in the city. Though much family drama ensues, the meat of the story is Shey Lynne’s relationship with Dane Kelly, a former bull riding champion and wealthy cattle rancher that Shey Lynne dated briefly but intensely as a teenager. At sixteen, Dane was her world, so her parents sent her off to boarding school to keep her from doing something stupid like getting pregnant or running off with Kelly while he rode the circuit. Fast forward twenty years and it’s immediately apparent that Dane still has the power to make Shey weak in the knees when they run into each other at a popular restaurant in their small town.
Shey’s constant, almost obsessive references to Dane’s masculinity; his strength; his big this and strong that; his virility; his tight jeans; his smell; his every goddamn thing becomes too much to bear a few pages into their rekindled romance—let alone 340 pages later. It’s the thing I hate about flowery love stories; they’re always flirting with sex and alluding to certain female feelings. I’d have nothing but respect for Porter’s work if somewhere in She’s Gone Country she included the sentence “Dane made Shey Lynne’s pussy wet.” That’s what we’re talking about; that’s the funny feeling Shey Lynne experiences “down there” every time Dane walks into the room.
She’s Gone Country aims to provide a snapshot of a family in transition and perhaps even feed the myth that everything happens for a reason. It supposes that even after a lifetime of heartbreak, some women get their storybook ending, and this is precisely why I disliked the novel. I prefer a bit more depth in my books, and I want writing that more closely adheres to reality.