Welcome To Eudora: A Novel by Mimi TheboWelcome To Eudora: A Novel by Mimi Thebo

Welcome To Eudora: A Novel

byMimi Thebo

Paperback | July 31, 2007

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about

Eudora, a small town in the middle of wheat, oil, and cattle country, is on the verge of extinction. And Lottie Dougal, the local stationer with a healing touch, may be the only one who can bring the community back together–if she doesn’t destroy it first.

In a town like Eudora, where everyone knows you from birth to death, it takes a brave woman to color her hair. Since returning to Eudora from a stint in the big city, Lottie Dougal has streaked hers until her aubu`rn curls glow as bright as the neon sign at Chuck’s Beer and Bowl. Clearly, the woman is one of life’s risk takers. So when the town’s new doctor (and the object of Lottie’s affections) fails to produce the anticipated ring at the Snow Ball, rumor has it that Lottie is consulting Herbal Cures and Curses . . . for a spell.

But love potions, like good intentions, can backfire. Dr. Emery does indeed take a bride, but one who hails from a city far from Eudora’s main street. As if the arrival of this temptress and Lottie’s broken heart aren’t enough to keep Eudorans clucking and plotting, the town has its own share of growing pains. The quarry is in financial ruin and the mayoral election unearths long-buried racial friction. An unprecedented drama unfolds–which, naturally and often quite comically, reverberates through the lives of the residents trying to save their livelihoods and the future of the town. As for Lottie and the good doctor, well, Eudora has a plan of its own. . . .
Mimi Thebo, an American writer of Cajun descent, is from Lawrence, Kansas. A former copywriter, cowgirl, and waitress, she holds one of the first PhDs in creative writing. Her work has been translated into more than ten languages and adapted for film by the BBC. The Times (London) has called it “empathetic and humane,” and described he...
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Title:Welcome To Eudora: A NovelFormat:PaperbackDimensions:304 pages, 7.94 × 5.33 × 0.66 inPublished:July 31, 2007Publisher:Random House Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0345492196

ISBN - 13:9780345492197

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Read from the Book

Chapter 1Jim Flory is preparing to open the movie house. You can tell by the way he walks around the front, pulling up bits of grass that have grown between the paving slabs of the sidewalk. You can tell because he’s parked his cleaning cart outside the front door, with the bottle of Windex twinkling blue in the thin autumnal sunlight. And you can tell because he is wearing a button-up shirt and a bow tie.No one has said anything about it, not yet, but there is a certain syncopation in the slightly brisker footsteps of the businesspeople in town, a kind of muted tapping in the daily dance of unlocking doors and opening window blinds. The staff of the bank notice that even Clement McAllister pulls his golden keychain from his trouser pocket a trifle less ponderously than usual.Ben Nichols and Odie Marsh, sitting in their sheriff’s patrol car and waiting, think Margery Lupin snaps up the bakery blinds with unusual energy and panache. They notice and then they look to see if each other has noticed, but neither Ben nor Odie speak about Margery’s panache or Jim’s bow tie and Windex. Some things are too good to let go of too quickly.Eudora is a small town, in the middle of wheat, oil, and cattle. It was once only one of many small towns, a family of brother and sister towns grouped loosely around the great parent city in the east. But all its siblings have died. It is the only one left of its generation. Wal-Mart has come and gone and it has survived. In this part of the world, there is no greater resilience than that.The hospital and the funeral parlor both remain. Only two windows downtown are boarded up, and by their unswerving loyalty the citizens even managed to retain their fabric shop and stationery store. If you are a patient person, and this virtue is highly regarded in Eudora, there is no reason to go to the city at all.Lottie Dougal is not a patient person. In fact, she has none of the other qualities Eudorans value. She is not reticent, she is not calm, she does not consider sufficiently before she acts, she is a spendthrift and inclined to dress flashy. In a town such as Eudora, where everyone knows you from birth to death, it takes a brave woman to color her hair. Lottie did, great flashes of brassy red that made her curls glow like the neon sign at Chuck’s Beer and Bowl.Strange birds like Lottie are occasionally fledged in Eudora, but they more or less immediately migrate to find their own kind, returning only for the major holidays. Lottie did this herself, flying off to college and even to study abroad, but then unaccountably coming back. It was Lottie who ran the stationery store upon her father’s death, when everybody had been pretty sure her sister, Pattie, would make Becky Lane manager of the fabric shop and come to run it herself. Lottie said she wasn’t going anywhere. She said she loved Eudora. Eudora was still considering whether it loved her in return, but it was inclined to doubt they had enough in common for the long run.Lottie Dougal openly dances down the sidewalk when she sees Jim Flory preparing to open the movie house. She skips. She waves gaily at people who nod soberly in return. She even gives a little twirl before putting her key in the door, and smiles when the burglar alarm goes off, quickstepping behind the counter and punching in her code with rhythm.Ben and Odie, watching all this from the bakery opposite, regard each other gravely. This is too much, they seem to feel. This effusion of spirits is dangerous. But then, there is no law against it, she is no kin to either of them, and they are both married men. It is nothing to do with them. Margery, in the process of wiping down the glass case before displaying her night’s work, glances across at Lottie’s actions and sucks her teeth audibly. She is a good woman and says a Hail Mary for Lottie’s soul as she moves the bear claws into position.For a moment, they all reflect upon the doctor.Now, in a place like Eudora, doctors come and go. The hospital is small and run by nursing staff. There are two doctors for accidents and emergencies, and two paramedics on the ambulance. They’re all kept pretty busy. Farming and the oil business are good for quite a few fingers and hands through a year. Then you have the quarry and the schools. There’s one obstetrician, and one nurse is a trained midwife. But for anything complicated, they send the helicopter out from the city. Some of the nurses are local girls and live in town, but the others and the doctors tend to live out there by the hospital, where the municipal golf course was also handily located. No one really knows about staff turnover out there.No, it is the GP’s office in the center of town that concerns Eudorans. P. J. O’Connell had been Eudora’s doctor for sixty-five years. During that time, he had trained battalions of other young men, who served under his autocratic rule with greater or lesser degrees of patience and escaped to their own practices far, far away as soon as possible. Now P.J. is finally dead, has been dead for nearly ten years. And in those ten years Eudorans have suffered three new doctors. The last came only sixteen months ago.This is an unsatisfactory state of affairs. No one wants to explain everything constantly to their doctor. New doctors do uncomfortable things that are sometimes seen as stupid, like the time one diagnosed Betty Jones’s diabetes and gave her lessons on how to inject herself, then wondered why Betty was unable to do so and kept crying silently whenever she was pressured to try. Everyone knows that Betty’s eldest, Diane, died of a heroin overdose after Betty had tried everything to cure her. Betty was in the hospital before someone thought of one of the expensive new machines where you don’t see the needle. A doctor who knew you would have started with that in the first place.The new doctor is a single man. This is seen as a bit of an advantage, after the last doctor’s wife and the wife before that. Neither had fitted into Eudora with any grace. They had come, with their painted wooden geese and their ideas of country life gotten out of magazines and novels. But they had not been staying kinds of people, and when they discovered that country life did not conform to their cozily stenciled interiors, they grew dissatisfied. A man does not tend to stay in a place where his wife is dissatisfied.But if a single doctor came in and married a local girl, that doctor would stay. The local girl would fill him in on the way things were. And then Eudorans could relax about that aspect of things again and no longer feel a faint anxiety every time they sneezed.Now, the reason Margery, Ben, and Odie are reflecting upon the doctor is that Lottie seems in an unusually cheerful mood. Because of all the good girls in Eudora, girls who win best pie against their elders, girls who quilt, paint, line-dance, golf under par, or bowl 300, Dr. Emery had, some time ago, fallen for Lottie Dougal.It was not a safe pair of hands. No one knew what that girl would do next. And so Eudorans (who generally prefer not to think about anyone’s sex life, including their own) are watching the courting behavior of the pair much as a zookeeper would watch the courting behavior of giant pandas. To Eudorans, this courting behavior is just as foreign and alien as the pandas’ would be.Consider the facts. The whole world knows they met at last year’s Maple Leaf Festival.The Maple Leaf Festival is an enormous two-day event to which half the state seems to travel. The festivities are numerous and varied, from the first pancake flipped at the five a.m. Saturday Breakfast on the Prairie to the last bow sawed in the Gospel Fiddling Contest (which one memorable year had stretched nearly to the ten o’clock news on Sunday night).Lottie Dougal loves the Maple Leaf Festival, simply loves it. She loves the parade, during which she tends to sit on the sidewalk with her feet in the gutter, like one of the poorer children in town, instead of in a folding chair placed the night before and covered with plastic against the dew, like a lady. She hoots with laughter at the extremely intricate formations of the miniature fire trucks, Cadillacs, Mustangs, and Formula One racers the Shriners construct so ingeniously from riding lawn mowers. The year before she met the doctor, when Representative Dale Winslow threw a handful of candy at her feet, she threw it back with enough force to hit him in between the eyes with a Hershey’s Kiss. It really made him jump, but it wasn’t the kind of thing you wanted to do, even though he had just voted for a bill that threw the state park open to oil exploration.But after the parade, Lottie proved she had Eudoran blood in her veins after all by forgoing the rest of the heady delights and rejoicing in the true meaning of the festival, which is reversing the flow of money from Eudora to the city by any means possible. Therefore she did not appear in the audience at the Battle of Black Jack reenactment but had, on her sidewalk table, a set of buff notecards on which the main highlights of the reenactment appeared in woodcut form thanks to the artistic ability of young Priss Lane. She found five minutes, while the boy she’d taken on ran the table, to go around the quilting exhibition, so that she knew who was using a machine and who was still piecing by hand (a touchstone of female conversation for the remainder of the year), but the bulk of her knowledge about current patterns and designs came from the attractive four-color poster that she had caused to be produced and the profits of which the stationery shop shared with the Eudora Art Center. She had a Breakfast on the Prairie recipe booklet. She had a coloring book of The History Of The Maple Festival. And, like everyone else in town, she had a small red metal cash box from which she dealt out change and into which she put, with every evidence of the delight all Eudorans feel at such moments, the large bills of the city folk who had come to rejoice in their roots.The doctor also got into the swing of things. He had an extensive collection of videos and DVDs that he was selling in front of his office, and 50 percent of the proceeds were to go to the American Cancer Society, a fact that was prominently displayed on his handwritten sign. Not displayed was the fact that the remainder would go to Amazon.com to replenish the collection with new movies. The Eudorans on either side of him, when setting out their tables during the parade that morning, had glanced over the titles and recognized nothing. Still, none of it looked pornographic, just foreign and different. So they had smiled, talked about how little leisure they had available for television, and left him to it, shaking their heads over what a waste of time it was, as no one was going to want to buy that sort of thing.But they had been wrong. Business was booming and the little card table had city folk some three deep. The doctor had gotten so carried away that he had replaced his stock twice and was now selling things he had intended to keep for the rest of his natural days. And then the big man had come, and he only had hundred-dollar bills. Neither of the doctor’s neighboring merchants had that kind of money in their red strongboxes, so the doctor picked a direction and started off down the street, the hundred-dollar bill clutched in his hand.Now, anybody thinking would have gone down to the bank, where McAllister had his coin collection, but the doctor, in his commercial frenzy, turned the other way and got nothing for his pains but shaken heads until he got to the bakery, where a weary Margery Lupin waved him away in a direction that seemed to the doctor to be across the street. And so he had fought his way through the throngs of people interested in commemorative Maple Leaf Festival stationery and got his first good look at Lottie Dougal.Lottie Dougal and Pattie Walker got sick like anybody else did, but they seldom visited any doctor. They weren’t Christian Scientists, but good Catholics like half the town. Their medical aversion wasn’t religious but hereditary, dating from an unneeded hysterectomy performed on their grandmother before they were born. Once the unnecessary nature of the operation was made clear to Grandmother Imogene Branch, none of the Branch kin (and of course their mother, Lisa Dougal, was born Lisa Branch, just as Pattie Walker was born Patricia Dougal) gave a penny to anyone who paid dues to the American Medical Association unless they could help it.From Imogene they had inherited a book, which by now had stretched to a library, of natural cures and herbal remedies that took care of most everything a body could get. You add that to the keen interest most Eudoran ladies take in nutrition and the combination was a powerful defense against the dark arts of the medical establishment. You could see the Dougal girls at certain key times of the year out at the state park collecting all kinds of seed heads and roots, and they frequently ordered in supplements and essential oils from Park Davis, the pharmacist who’d taken over the Maple Leaf Pharmacy from his uncle Hal Davis. Park and Hal said there was no real harm in any of it, though there was no way of telling if it was their cures or the Branch constitution that was responsible for the family’s legendarily quick recovery from disease, the plants probably weren’t hurting them any.So as Lottie hadn’t been to see the doctor professionally and he had spent most of his spare time in the luxurious apartment above his office, watching, as everyone in town now knew, entirely too many movies, they had only seen each other at a distance. But as Lottie counted her quarters to see if she should make up a roll, a hand rested on the edge of her white tablecloth clutching a hundred-dollar bill between its long, white, sensitive fingers. It was a hand she did not know, placed familiarly on the Eudoran side of the table, not reached, as the city folks would reach, across the merchandise from the sidewalk.

Bookclub Guide

1. People are often invisible in Eudora. What causes this state for various characters? Are there invisible people in your town? Have you ever felt invisible?2. How does Mimi Thebo create Eudora as a character? Did you find it effective? Could you easily imagine the town as you read?3. Were Lottie and Doc Emery fated to be together? Do you believe in fate and love at first sight?4. The novel has many general themes including small town life, corporate vs personal interests, community and the individual, family, race. Which ones resonated the most strongly for you?5. At one point, Angela says that love is not necessary for a good marriage. Do you agree? What makes a strong marriage?6. One of the things we see in the novel is the effect one small decision by an individual can have on an entire community. Did you ever make a decision which felt insignificant at the time, but which you later saw to be one of the most important decisions of your life? Did the effects of that decision remain with you, or did they ripple out to friends, family and community?7. Was Zadie crazy to invest so much in the diner? Would you have done the same thing or something entirely different?8. Mimi Thebo often talks about ‘models of redemption and recovery’ in relation to her fiction. Who is redeemed in this novel? And who does the redeeming? If you are a person of faith, do you feel these models are consistent with what you believe of redemption?9. Although bad things happen in the novel, are there bad characters? Do they, too, have a chance at redemption in the novel?10. Would you want to live in Eudora? Why or why not?

Editorial Reviews

“A love song to small American towns and the people who live in them . . . a delightful saga about uncertain attractions, limited ambitions, circumspect passions–and, ultimately, realizable dreams.”
–Diane Hammond, author of Homesick Creek