Reviews for Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat


Booklist Reviews 2013 February #2
Odette, Clarice, and Barbara Jean have been close friends since girlhood, growing up in the 1960s in the southern Indiana town of Plainview. Their personalities and cool good looks earned them the name the Supremes when they'd meet regularly to eat at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat, with Big Earl keeping a watchful eye on them. Now in middle age, the Supremes meet regularly with their husbands for dinner at Earl's, now managed by his son. The aging Supremes and Earl's are institutions in a black community that has seen much progress since the 1950s, when the restaurant became the first black-owned business in a racially divided town. But the town as well as the women have also seen much trouble. Odette makes time in her busy life for the regular visitations of her dead mother, Clarice copes with the humiliation of an unfaithful husband, and Barbara Jean struggles to hide her drinking to assuage the death of her child. Moore intersperses episodes from the past with their current lives, showing their enduring friendship through good times and bad. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

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BookPage Reviews 2013 March
First-time author celebrates a 40-year bond

Entering midlife is often associated with trying something new, from skydiving to a new hair color to the ever-popular sports car. For debut novelist Edward Kelsey Moore—already an accomplished professional cellist and college professor—writing was that something new.

“I didn’t complete my first short story until after I turned 40,” Moore (who is now 52) tells BookPage from his home in Chicago, where he lives with his longtime partner. “It was one of those midlife things. I thought, I’m not going to be happy until I write. I wanted to all along, but had another creative outlet I really loved and focused on. Finally, I just said . . . I’ll enter the local NPR station’s yearly short-story contest, write one story, and that will fix the urge.”

But despite years of experience on stage and in a classroom, Moore wasn’t quite ready to put his writing out in front of people, and he let the deadline pass. Then came a twist of (or gentle nudge from) fate: He was hired by the NPR station, WBEZ, to play in a string quartet during the awards event for the very same short-story competition. “I was sitting there playing Mozart and being reminded that I chickened out,” Moore recalls. Sufficiently chastened, he entered the contest the following year—and won.

“That was the start of it all,” he says. Several more published short stories followed, and then, a novel: The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat, published this month by Knopf. Moore says working with Knopf has been “a lovely surprise . . . and I have a lovely agent! What a wonderful position to be in.”

It’s a vantage point that’s enhanced by the passage of time: “When I was 25 or 30, I couldn’t have enjoyed this the way I am now. I would’ve been so self-conscious. But you get to a certain point where you can say, this is just good—you don’t have to qualify it or put any weirdness into it.”

That’s true of his cello playing, too, Moore says. “I was probably a better technician 25 years ago, but I didn’t allow myself to relax or take any sort of risks. . . . Now I have a lot more freedom emotionally, and knowledge the world won’t end if I make mistakes. Certainly if I’d set out to be a writer first, it would’ve brought the same anxiety. I took a long, long road to adulthood.”

The author’s current, more expansive approach to life inhabits every person and encounter—some quotidian, some dramatic, some madcap—in The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat, set in fictional Plainview, Indiana, from the 1960s to the 2000s.

Via the 40-year friendship of Odette, Clarice and Barbara Jean (nicknamed “the Supremes” in their teens), Moore makes a convincing case for being open enough to take emotional risks, whether befriending people who see the world differently, speaking your mind even if it’s scary or daring to fall in love.

“I wanted to write about women who were like the women I knew, who were smart and interesting and not foolish.”

He also does an excellent job giving voice to a sizable array of characters, most of whom are women. Moore says he didn’t set out to write in the female voice and didn’t even realize it might be seen as unusual. “It wasn’t until Knopf bought the novel that anyone mentioned it. I simply never thought about it,” he says.

“Maybe if I weren’t a black man or a gay man I wouldn’t feel this way, but I spent a fair amount of my youth trying to get away from the notion that anybody should look at the world a certain way. I think once you let go of that, it becomes a lot easier to empathize with people and see there’s really not that much difference between what someone feels . . . whether it’s a person with 10 times as much money or another set of genitalia.”

Similarly, Moore says, “I wasn’t trying to make the book specific to a black experience, or anything other than who I thought these women were. When I first wrote it, they weren’t even all black—I didn’t think that was the most important thing about them, by any means.”

“That whole ‘strong black woman’ thing brings in a bunch of stereotypes I didn’t want to write about; it tends to conjure up this sassy, smart-talking TV reality-show woman,” he says of the trope that some find offensive. “It was very important to me that I not contribute to what I feel is often a popular culture that demeans women in general and black women in particular. I wanted to write about women who were like the women I knew, who were smart and interesting and not foolish.”

Moore has been lucky to know women like the Supremes. Odette enjoys her food, speaks her mind and is the de facto leader of the trio. Clarice leans toward superficial, but her friends draw out her inner empathy. And preternaturally beautiful Barbara Jean survived a difficult childhood and now struggles with new sorrow and long-held regret. The centerpiece of the novel is one year in the lives of the three friends, but flashbacks told from various points of view reveal mileposts along the women’s journeys, both individual and intertwined.

There’s also plenty of hilarity in The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat, whether in the guise of a faux psychic; an astoundingly hypocritical church deacon; a series of unfortunate events at an elaborate wedding; or a vegetarian dog (the only one in southern Indiana).

Throughout, everyone circles back to Earl’s, where Moore conjures up the events, sounds and scents of the diner with writerly ease. His charming, skillful evocation of the small-town life of Plainfield and its cleverly crafted history will make readers curious about (or nostalgic for) Indiana, where Moore grew up and regularly visits.

Soon, though, he’ll be visiting other countries on an international book tour, where he’ll get practice stepping into the spotlight without his cello. “I was surprised at the feeling of nakedness in writing fiction. Every weird little thing coming out of your imagination, you have to own up to it. As a [cello] performer, you can blame Beethoven or the instrument; they [Sat Apr 19 03:14:48 2014] enhancedContent.pl: Wide character in print at E:\websites\aquabrowser\IMCPL\app\site\enhancedContent.pl line 249. serve as a shield.”

Ultimately, though, Moore says, “People are going to tell me what kind of book I’ve written, and that’s the way it should be. I wrote what I wanted to write, and what others think about it, what it means to them, is up to them.” Spoken like a true adult—and an author.

Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.

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BookPage Reviews 2013 August
Your guide to noteworthy debuts of 2013

Is there anything more nerve-racking than publishing a first novel? For authors and publishers alike, it’s a nail-biting moment of sink or swim. Here are 10 debuts from the year (so far!) that signal the start of promising careers.

THE HOUSE GIRL
By Tara Conklin
For fans of: Tracy Chevalier, Kathryn Stockett, Geraldine Brooks
First line: “Mister hit Josephine with the palm of his hand across her left cheek and it was then she knew she would run.”
About the book: The stories of a runaway slave and a modern-day lawyer intersect in a quiet, emotional and thought-provoking tale.
About the author: Conklin worked as a corporate lawyer before moving to Seattle with her husband and children to write this novel.
Read more: Interview from our February issue.

GHOSTMAN
By Roger Hobbs
For fans of: Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, Dan Brown
First line: “Hector Moreno and Jerome Ribbons sat in the car on the ground level of the Atlantic Regency Hotel Casino parking garage, sucking up crystal meth with a rolled-up five spot, a lighter and a crinkled length of tin foil.”
About the book: This thrilling heist novel is full of nonstop action and includes incredible detail on everything from casino operations to armored cars—as well as an unforgettable, amoral antihero.
About the author: Just 24 years old, Hobbs finished the novel while still attending Reed College in Portland.
Read more: Interview from our February issue.

THE SUPREMES AT EARL'S ALL-YOU-CAN-EAT
By Edward Kelsey Moore
For fans of: Maeve Binchy, Terry McMillan, Fannie Flagg
First line: “I woke up hot that morning. Came out of a sound sleep with my face tingling and my nightgown stuck to my body.”
About the book: The 40-year friendship of three women from the small town of Plainview, Indiana, is celebrated in a big-hearted story that’s full of laughs—and inspired by the “smart, and interesting, and not foolish” women in Moore’s own life.
About the author: Moore was an accomplished cellist and college professor when he decided to try writing at the age of 40 (he’s now 52).
Read more: Interview from our March issue.

A CONSTELLATION OF VITAL PHENOMENA
By Anthony Marra
For fans of: Téa Obreht, Adam Johnson, Jonathan Safran Foer
First line: “On the morning after the Feds burned down her house and took her father, Havaa woke from dreams of sea anemones.”
About the book: Set against the backdrop of the Chechen Wars, an exhausted doctor fights to protect a young girl whose father has been taken away by Russian soldiers for a crime he didn’t commit.
About the author: Currently a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, Marra holds an M.F.A. from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and has lived in Eastern Europe.
Read more: Review from our May issue.

THE GOLEM AND THE JINNI
By Helene Wecker
For fans of: Susanna Clarke, Deborah Harkness, Michael Chabon
First line: “The Golem’s life began in the hold of a steamship.”
About the book: A golem, a jinni and the evil wizard that links them star in Wecker’s imaginative blend of Jewish and Arabic folklore. The supernatural characters are grounded by the novel’s detailed, vibrant setting in 1899 New York City, where immigrants and wealthy citizens mingle on teeming streets.
About the author: Wecker spent seven years working in the corporate sector before attending Columbia University’s writing program.
Read more: Interview from our May issue.

THE OTHER TYPIST
By Suzanne Rindell
For fans of: Amor Towles, Zoë Heller, M.L. Stedman
First line: “They said the typewriter would unsex us.”
About the book: Rose, a prim and proper typist working in 1920s Manhattan, forms a friendship with mysterious, fun-loving Odalie that borders on obsession. With Rose as its sly and slightly unreliable narrator, this suspenseful story will keep you guessing.
About the author: A former employee of a literary agency, Rindell is finishing up a Ph.D. in modernist literature at Rice University.
Read more: Review from our May issue.

THE EXECUTION OF NOA P. SINGLETON
By Elizabeth L. Silver
For fans of: Lionel Shriver, Gillian Flynn, John Grisham
First line: “In this world, you are either good or evil.”
About the book: We know from page one that Noa is guilty of murder. Silver’s psychologically acute narrative probes the all-important question of why—and provides a breathtaking answer.
About the author: Silver earned her legal knowledge as a judicial clerk and research attorney for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. She also has an M.A. in literature.
Read more: Review from our June issue.

THE GHOST BRIDE
By Yangsze Choo
For fans of: Lisa See, Eowyn Ivey, Jamie Ford, Erin Morgenstern
First line: “One evening, my father asked me whether I would like to become a ghost bride.”
About the book: In 1893 Malaysia, Li Lan finds herself betrothed to a ghost—and in love with another man. Her quest for freedom takes her through the land of the dead.
About the author: Choo got a degree in sociology from Harvard before launching her writing career.  
Read more: Interview in this issue.

THE FIELDS
By Kevin Maher
For fans of: Roddy Doyle, Jennifer Haigh, Nick Hornby
First line: “When Jack died I was real young, younger than I am now, and I said, in a temper, that I would never let it happen again.”
About the book: This ambitious coming-of-age story set in 1980s Dublin is told in the memorable voice of Jim Finnegan, the youngest of six in a working-class family.
About the author: From Dublin himself, Maher now lives in England and is a film critic for several papers, including the Guardian.
Read more: Review in this issue.

THE PEOPLE IN THE TREES
By Hanya Yanagihara
For fans of: Donna Tartt, Ann Patchett, Barbara Kingsolver
First line: “I was born in 1924 near Lindon, Indiana, the sort of small, unremarkable rural town that some twenty years before my birth had begun to duplicate itself, quietly but insistently, across the Midwest.”
About the book: Told through the annotated journals of Dr. Norton Perina, this sprawling tale has an old-fashioned feel. Perina has discovered the key to longevity on a remote island—but at what price?
About the author: Yanagihara is an editor for Condé Nast Travel—which explains Perina’s fantastic descriptions of island paradise.
Read more: Review in this issue.

Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2013 February #1
Well, not Florence, Mary and Diana, but rather three close friends from Plainview, Ind., who, from their adolescence to their maturity, meet to gossip and consolidate their friendship at a local eatery. Odette, Clarice and Barbara Jean have been inseparable since the late 1960s, when they met in high school. Although Barbara Jean was at first an outsider, she quickly bonded with the other two, and they began calling themselves--and being called by others--the Supremes. The novel opens some 40 years after their salad days, when Odette hears of the death of Big Earl, founder of the eponymous black-owned-and-operated restaurant. (We also find out that this news has been conveyed to Odette by her mother, who's been dead for six years.) Through both Odette's narrative and a more neutral third-person perspective, we learn of the trio's personal problems and the rise and fall of their relationships. Odette, for example, is married to the patient and long-suffering James, and recently, she's discovered she has cancer. Clarice has long been married to Richmond, a charming cad who's serially and terminally unfaithful--and she needs to decide whether to leave him or not. And Barbara Jean, who married her husband, 42-year-old Lester, the day after she graduated from high school, is now dealing with his death and confronting the alcoholism that struck unforgivingly with the earlier death of her young son. Throughout the Supremes' intertwined stories is one constant--meeting and eating at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat, now run by his son Little Earl, a place where relationships are forged, scandals are aired and copious amounts of chicken are consumed. A novel of strong women, evocative memories and deep friendship. Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Library Journal Reviews 2012 October #2

In the mid-Sixties, three black teenage friends--Odette, Clarice, and Barbara Jean--start meeting at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat, the first black-owned business in Plainview, IN. Watched over by Earl, they keep meeting there for 40 years. Comparisons to The Help, Waiting To Exhale, and Fried Green Tomatoes; a big tour, a reading group guide, and multiple foreign rights sales recommend this book further.

[Page 59]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Library Journal Reviews 2013 January #1

First-time novelist Moore's story of a trio of women nicknamed the Supremes in small-town Indiana--Odette, Clarice, and Barbara Jean--may well become as popular as the books about women's friendship it is being compared to, such as The Help, Waiting to Exhale, and Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. From high school on, through marriages and children, the three friends regularly get together with their husbands at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat (the first black-owned business in Plainview) to see and be seen, share gossip, and help each other through bad times. Clearly fond of his three imperfect main characters, the author uses warmhearted humor and salty language to bring to life a tight-knit African-American community that's complete with competing churches, wacky relations, a fortune-telling fraud, and the ghost of a drunken Eleanor Roosevelt. VERDICT With salt-of-the-earth characters like fearless Odette, motherless Barbara Jean, and sharp-tongued Clarice, along with an event-filled plot that readers will laugh and cry over, this is a good bet to become a best seller. [See Prepub Alert, 9/27/12; seven-city author tour.]--Laurie Cavanaugh, Wareham Free Lib., MA

[Page 83]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Library Journal Reviews 2013 June #1

Dubbed the Supremes, Odette, Clarice, and Barbara Jean have been friends since their high school days back in the turbulent 1960s. The trio have met every week for 40 years at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat for food and friendship, laughter and tears. VERDICT This is a big-hearted novel, full of humor and appealing characters who make it a delightful read. While we don't ordinarily think of male authors writing women's fiction, Moore gets inside the heads of these women, and his genuine affection for his characters is compellingly evident. (LJ 1/13)

[Page 103]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Library Journal Reviews Newsletter
After forming a bond in high school in the 1960s and being dubbed "the Supremes," three Afri-can American friends share life's ups and downs over the course of 40 years at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat. This debut explores "with warmhearted humor and salty language" the power of female friendship. (LJ 1/13) (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 March #1

The indefatigable trio of Barbara Jean, Clarice, and Odette (known as "The Supremes" since high school) churns the small community of Plainview, Indiana into a Southern-fried tailspin this debut from Moore, a professional cellist. Each of the central characters brings unique challenges to the tables at Earl's diner: Odette battles cancer while her pothead mother communicates with famous ghosts; Clarice tries to salvage a crumbling marriage with her cheating husband; and beautiful Barbara Jean, who married for money, drinks to forget a youthful affair and her dead son. In a booth at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat, a short walk from Calvary Baptist Church, these women lay bare their passions, shortfalls, and dramas. Clarice's cancer treatment brings them together in melancholy, but it isn't long before secrets are revealed and the scramble to catch up on lost time begins. Despite meandering points-of-view and a surplus of exposition, Moore is a demonstrative storyteller and credits youthful eavesdropping for inspiring this multifaceted novel. Comparisons to The Help and Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe are inevitable, but Moore's take on this rowdy troupe of outspoken, lovable women has its own distinctive pluck. Barney Karpfinger, the Karpfinger Agency. (Mar.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC

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Publishers Weekly Annex Reviews

The indefatigable trio of Barbara Jean, Clarice, and Odette (known as "The Supremes" since high school) churns the small community of Plainview, Indiana into a Southern-fried tailspin this debut from Moore, a professional cellist. Each of the central characters brings unique challenges to the tables at Earl's diner: Odette battles cancer while her pothead mother communicates with famous ghosts; Clarice tries to salvage a crumbling marriage with her cheating husband; and beautiful Barbara Jean, who married for money, drinks to forget a youthful affair and her dead son. In a booth at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat, a short walk from Calvary Baptist Church, these women lay bare their passions, shortfalls, and dramas. Clarice's cancer treatment brings them together in melancholy, but it isn't long before secrets are revealed and the scramble to catch up on lost time begins. Despite meandering points-of-view and a surplus of exposition, Moore is a demonstrative storyteller and credits youthful eavesdropping for inspiring this multifaceted novel. Comparisons to The Help and Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe are inevitable, but Moore's take on this rowdy troupe of outspoken, lovable women has its own distinctive pluck. Barney Karpfinger, the Karpfinger Agency. (Mar.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC

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