Cherished Ladies Get the Cold, Hard Boot
The Floribama Ladies’ Auxiliary and Sewing Circle by Lois Battle is a story about women in a little town called Floribama, Georgia who have just been laid off from The Cherished Lady undergarment factory when it closed its doors to move the operation to Mexico. The title of the book implies that the main story is about these unemployed women who now form a sewing circle, although that is a little deceptive. The sewing circle doesn’t come into play until half way through the book and even then it’s not where the story hinges. This book is mainly about three women, all affected by the lay-offs. Bonnie, a once well-to-do divorcee settles into her new job at the local community college as a coordinator for the “Displaced Homemaker’s Program,” which is offered to the women from the plant. Bonnie’s job is to help the women find new careers through college education. Ruth is one of those women. She is a widowed grandmother who was a worker at The Cherished Lady for decades. Like everyone else, she desperately needs her job, especially since her daughter Roxy, has difficulties taking care of her own children. The third main character is---well, she’s a character alright. Hilly is a tall, buxom woman with big hair and a Texas drawl. She’s confident and opinionated. My favorite character in the book, she’s a big presence with a big mouth that spouts memorable lines like:
Only hell my mama ever raised was me.
Lois Battle, The Floribama Ladies’ Auxiliary and Sewing Circle (New York: Penguin Books, 2002), 254.
…Just when you think life is a bitch, it has puppies.
Lois Battle, The Floribama Ladies’ Auxiliary and Sewing Circle (New York: Penguin Books, 2002), 51.
Let’s just Bobbitt this conversation ‘bout Ruth.
Lois Battle, The Floribama Ladies’ Auxiliary and Sewing Circle (New York: Penguin Books, 2002), 303.
That last line had me laughing out loud. I had almost erased memories of the 1993 news story of John Wayne Bobbitt and how his wife, Lorena, severed an integral part of his body after she claimed he raped her and then drove away and tossed the appendage into a field.
This book wasn’t all laughs, but it was a heartfelt, quick read with an inspiring message of picking up and moving forward as best you can when life knocks you down. Losing a job can be enormously stressful and depressing, but this book brings hope. The trauma of losing a job, or going through divorce is not nearly as tragic as the incidents in Ann Hood’s The Knitting Circle, but neither is the book quite as light-hearted and cozy as The Persian Pickle Club by Sandra Dallas. Like the other two books just mentioned, I enjoyed it for being different in style and story, but still centering around women and the friendships that support one another.