Raised in the Primitive Baptist Church, Beulah Buchanan at age 16 marries the much older deacon Ralph Rainey to escape from her oppressive parents, thus jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Over the next six years, Beulah works in her domineering husband’s cafe all day and cooks him dinner at home every night, dutifully attends church, and falls into an affair with the preacher. When she embarasses her husband by not cooking enough food for the ravenous visiting revival preacher, Ralph “chastises” Beulah with his belt. When he tries to beat her again on another occasion, she fights back and locks him in the cooler at his cafe, where he freezes to death. This sounds like and is a Southern Gothic tragedy, but it is told in Beulah’s voice, which is innocently hilarious. Beulah is an original, but readers who liked Clyde Eagerton’s Raney and Mark Childress’s Crazy in Alabama will hear familiar echoes of those Southern women protagonists.
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