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Cover of "Stand By Your Man"

Book:  Stand By Your Man by Gil McNeil. (Bloomsbury UK 2004)

I am suspicious of any book that culls its title from an old country song, unless the book is a biography of the singer.  You know, something like “Take Me Home Country Roads: A Summary of the Travels of John Denver.” (By the way, I made that up.  But if that title tickles you, there actually is a book called Take Me Home: An Autobiography by John Denver.)

So, in this case, the title itself is circumspect. Add to it the uninteresting book cover, the author’s inscription on page 4 where she quotes from Tammy Wynette “Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman,” and it was more than enough for me to throw the book back on the shelf.

But that didn’t happen.  I bought it on my e-reader  because I loved the last three books I read by Gil McNeil (The Beach Street Society Novels).  Stand By Your Man appears to be McNeil’s second novel which might explain why it seemed like an anemic version of one of her later novels, Diva’s Don’t Knit (2007) which was also published under the title The Beach Street Knitting Society and yarn Club.

Together Again (George Jones and Tammy Wynette...

Together Again (George Jones and Tammy Wynette album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Stand By Your Man is told from the perspective of single mother, Alice, and how she copes with dating and raising a small boy while living in a village outside of London.  I liked how McNeil adds depth to Alice’s life by showing her interactions with the other village denizens.  I think this is one of the book’s strengths. Even though Alice is going it alone, there is a lot of contact with friends and the garden society that you experience a gregarious camaraderie which is part of the charm of small community life.   I’ve always kind of liked that. Maybe because it reminds me of Little House on the Prairie.

Who invented obstetric forceps?

That’s easy, a total bastard.

There’s some funny dialogue, the characters are amusing (even if they are a bit underdeveloped) and the plot gets a little interesting in the last quarter of the book, but overall, the whole thing was rather tepid.  In fact, I’m not quite sure how the title comes into play because the stand by your man thing doesn’t really surface until the end of the book.

If you have a hankering to read any of McNeil’s books, I would start with Diva’s Don’t Knit.  If you are a die hard Gil McNeil fan, you will probably enjoy Stand By Your Man, especially if you see for sale at a good price.  I paid $9.99 to download this on my e-reader, and I don’t feel like it was worth it.  I probably won’t read anymore of McNeil’s earlier novels unless there’s one called “The Gambler: Know When to Hold ‘Em.”  Cause let’s face it. That’s an ace that I could keep.

Greatest Hits (1980 Kenny Rogers album)

The Gambler was released in November 1978 as the title track from his album The Gambler which won him the Grammy award for best male country vocal performance in 1980.