I want to get this out of the way before I go any further: Joni Rodgers writes like I wish I could. Rich detail that makes the characters come alive. They spend their days mostly going through the motions of life, trying not to get beaten down too far. Occasionally, their existence is pierced by moments of clarity -- some of which are excruciating and some of which are those transcendent glimmers of glory that some(God knows)how make all that drudgery and pain worthwhile.
It's a story of duos: two sisters; two husbands; two mothers (plus one mother-in-law with a small but very significant role); two families. Kit and Kiki spent their childhood as a local Country duo, opening for national acts performing in the area around Sugar Land, Texas. They both married young and had kids right away. Kit has a job painting decorations on furniture and souvenirs in a local store; she tells herself that it gives her at least some creative outlet. Her husband works the night shift as an airplane mechanic and pours all his passion into restoring a car, basically ignoring his wife. Kiki is married to a taxidermist who is an abusive drunk, but he has eroded her self-worth to the point that she goes back to him every time she manages to escape, especially when he threatens to take her children from her.
Everybody in the story loves and is loved passionately. Most of that lovin' is served up in such horribly dysfunctional ways it appears to be almost worse than no love at all.
Everybody in the story has secrets, which corrode their very souls.
The characters are so real that I can name at least one person who has been in my life at one point or another who resembles each one of them. It's the first time I've read a story about a woman married to an abusive spouse that made me understand why she would stay with him.
I read it all in one sitting. I laughed some, and cried a lot (funny, sad as well as happy tears). Woke up in the morning with a "crying headache" and really puffy eyes. I love a book that makes me suffer along with the characters!
While I was writing this, I checked out Rodgers' blog here and discovered that she has a new book out here. So I bought it. I hope I like it half as much as Sugarland which you can buy here.