American Pop

Look out stomach, here it comes.

Oh, how you anticipate that first swallow of great-grandma’s recipe, the one with the secret ingredient you know but you’re not telling. True, you might share that secret someday but in the meantime, as in the new novel “American Pop” by Snowden Wright, be careful what you spill.

Fiona Forster wondered how well she really knew her husband, Tewksbury.

When she married him before they came to America, he told her he was a doctor. She believed him then but as she lay on the wooden floor of their cabin, she had her doubts. If he was a doctor, then why didn’t he ease her labor pains?

Tewksbury was a doctor — and he was enterprising. When he realized that potions he’d had back in Scotland could cure patients in America, too, he set up a small shop in their Mississippi Delta town, and it flourished. By the time his son, Houghton, was old enough to run the place, the shop had begun to serve refreshments.

Houghton always said that he came up with the delicious drink that everyone was talking about, all because of Annabelle. He’d fallen in love with her the minute he saw her but winning her hand was no easy feat. Annabelle’s family had money and her father wasn’t about to let his only child marry a soda jerk.

But Houghton was no mere soda jerk. He was the creator of Panola Cola, so-named after the Mississippi county where it started. Houghton alone carried the recipe in his head. He was patriarch to his adult children: eldest son Monty, a heartsick veteran destined for politics but mourning a devastating loss; Harold, who’d had an unfortunate accident as a boy; and twins, Ramsey and Lance, both holding a secret oozing with jealousy.

Houghton never wanted his children to want, but a little hardship made them ready for the future. One day, one of them would take control of Panola Cola, and he’d reveal the secret of his recipe at that time. Until then, he’d keep a cap on it … .

Imagine, if you will, a nighttime soap opera written in bathtub gin, narrated by Burl Ives with snark and a side dish of history. Imagine that it makes you snort just before tearing your heart out and ruthlessly crumpling it. That’s “American Pop.”

Taking readers to the mid-19th-century, through elegant speakeasies, Hollywood movie studios, and two wars, to the mid-1980s and back, author Snowden Wright tells a witty tale of a prosperous and proper Southern family with fangs, claws and tender souls. Of course, that can be humorous but Wright won’t let you laugh for long: while this novel is about a handful of main characters, other Forsters move in and out of chapters with anger and well-meaning, leaving pain as sharp as busted glass.

Grab this book and be prepared to feel all fizzy inside. Grab it, but leave the bookmarks at home; you won’t need ‘em. You’ll be too tempted to read “American Pop” in one long gulp.

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