Just Fine With Caroline
by: Annie England Noblin
Published: October 11, 2016
William Morrow, Harper Collins
From the author of Sit! Stay! Speak! comes a tender, terrific novel complete with long-buried secrets, a three-legged pot belly pig, and an irresistible dog—an unforgettable story about love, friendship, and community. Perfect for fans of Mary Kay Andrews and Mary Alice Monroe.
Caroline O’Connor never dreamed she’d be back home in Cold River, Missouri, the Ozark Mountain town where everyone is ‘up your business.’…they mean well as they drive you crazy. She thought she’d left town for good, but now she’s back, helping to care for her New York born mother—struck with Alzheimer’s, and prone to saying and doing anything—and her father, the beloved local doctor frustrated he can’t cure his own wife.
As for Caroline, she’s doing ‘just fine’ coping with her parents, her brazen cousin Ava Dawn’s marital disasters, her mostly-deaf dog…and with Noah Cranwell, far-flung relative of a local family mostly infamous for running moonshine, an ex-veteran who’s come to Cold River with troubles of his own.
Caroline believes she knows everything about Cold River and the people who live in its hills and hollers … but sometimes life’s greatest surprises happen closest to home.
Annie England Noblin is a new to me author, but that didn’t stop me from being captivated by her writing. I was sucked in from the first page. Then, the writing only got better from there!
I have never been to the Ozarks, but the descriptions within Just Fine With Caroline transported me there. By the time the book ended, I knew my way around Cold River as if I had lived there all my life. I’m not a huge fan of fishing, but what I wouldn’t give to go swimming, and find the tree, just beyond the Wormhole.
Oh my. The characters! They were so vibrant, so lively, so wonderful. I sympathized with Caroline as she returned home to help take care of her ailing mother. I wondered what kind of life she lived beforehand. Her outlook isn’t as dreary as I thought it would be. While she was deeply saddened by her mother’s illness, she was open to so many other possibilities; she was waiting for her life to truly begin. Noah, an outsider, came back after leaving many years ago. As Caroline describes outsiders as a terrible thing (because of how the town treated her mother), she welcomed Noah with open arms. After all, his roots were a part of the town just as much as hers. Noah has the city-slick thing going on, but his personality drives the story deeper into the mystery that surrounds his family name. It slowly disappears and turns into the man he needed to become. In addition, all of the secondary characters contributed to the story just as much as Caroline and Noah did. To me, there were no outsiders. Only community. Only friendship. Only family. Only love.
Noblin cultivated a world to be drawn into. Her writing reminded me of being in the deep south, except it wasn’t. This novel moves you into feeling every single emotion the characters do. It is an adorable, light-hearted read, but be prepared for the feels.
*I voluntarily reviewed an advanced reader copy provided by the publisher.
Writer. Mother. Wife. Bulldog enthusiast. Curly hair afternoon.
Annie England Noblin lives with her son, husband, and three rescued bulldogs in the Missouri Ozarks. She graduated with an M.A. in Creative Writing from Missouri State University and currently teaches English at Arkansas State University. Her poetry has been featured in such publications as the Red Booth Review and the Moon City Review.