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  • Writer's picturecharlottelzang

Book Review of Chimes from a Southern Belle by Susan Reinhardt

My Rating:

A fairly normal woman can ignore the gigantic red warning flags if the evil of her choosing shows up wrapped pretty as a Christmas package and is so gorgeous on the outside she forgets to lift the lid.

Approaching a grave subject with a touch of humor can go wrong, but Chimes From A Cracked Southern Belle by Susan Reinhardt balances them well. 

Prudy (Dee) Millings is a divorced mother of two. Her ex-husband sits in prison. A moment of rage and insanity saw him attempting to murder his wife in a grocery parking lot. Her son suffers from anxiety and nightmares, while her young daughter is aloof and content—each of them processing the upheaval to their family in different ways. 

Dee is a flawed and practical character. You won’t see any immaculate makeup, sleek hair, and delicate beauty with this protagonist. She struggles each day against fears, anxieties, and depression. But there is so much uplifting humor inside her, and Dee’s development throughout the pages is honest. 

New beginnings are often harder than painful endings. The unknown vs. the familiar.

The side characters are both endearing and alarmingly annoying. Dee’s mother is overbearing, impertinent, and bothersome. Her daily phone calls where she reveals a proverb and tells her daughter what to do with her life kicks off every chapter, and her preachy, pushy words act as another aspect of abuse. 

The abuse is amplified as Dee’s mom continues to blame Dee for her husband going crazy, her lack of self-confidence, and why people whisper about her. If the mother showed any signs of growth, this might have worked better. As it stands, the mother character remains an ugly, self-centered monster who verbally abuses her daughter. Whether Reinhardt planned that or not isn’t clear, for it seems like it was more about creating a wacky, exaggerated character. Unfortunately, the mother and one or two side characters end up making a story of southerners that can be offensive.   

The emotion of the novel is the most endearing aspect of Chimes from a Cracked Southern Belle. It is raw and honest. The love story isn’t some neat bundle of two perfect people with sparkling abs or manicured nails. Even so, the romance and the friendships Dee builds are charming. 

After a while, a woman can find the satin edges of grace in tragedy’s wool blanket.

This story did not need the three-hundred-plus pages to get the story across. Overworked, redundant internal monologue proved tedious. The novel would have been more active if it had just ridden through via the characters’ actions or dialogue exchanges. 

Chimes from a Cracked Southern Belle might prove difficult for a survivor of abuse to read. It appears Reinhardt did some research into life during and after abuse, but the subject matter is still a touchy one. Even so, Susan Reinhardt does have a knack for highlighting the funny, silver lining of life’s worst moments. 

Many thanks to Susan Reinhardt and Reedsy Discovery for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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