Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Darling Dahlias and the Unlucky Clover

It's 1934 and the country is still in the midst of the Depression. In The Darling Dahlias and the Unlucky Clover by Susan Wittig Albert, the people of Darling, Alabama, are doing the best they can with what little they have.

Everyone has a vegetable garden so fresh veggies are always available and what is not used at home is donated to the Darling Blessing Box. No one has an extra money except a few people like the Whitworths, but Whit is not spending any money even on the businesses in which he is a partner. This includes the Darling Telephone Exchange which has outgrown its old switchboard causing phone problems throughout Darling.

It's time for the annual Dixie Championship for Barbershop Quartets and the Lucky Clovers are planning to compete. Unfortunately two of their members encounter bad luck - Martin Ewing has pimples on his throat and he cannot sing and Whit Whitworth winds up dead in a car accident.

The Dahlias rush in the console the widow, but discover she was planning to divorce Whit over
money problems. There are other suspects as well because Whit was a limited partner in many businesses, but was unwilling to invest in them, making the other partners angry. Liz Lacy who works for attorney Mr. Moseley is privy to confidential client information and knows Mrs.Whitworth was planning to divorce him.

Lots of suspects as usual but the real charm of these books is the account of life in 1934. The little glimpses into the life of everyday people during the Depression, how they coped with very little and how they looked forward to the New Deal is a study in history. I'm always stunned by the prices of food - tuna fish 10 cents a can (too expensive to buy for cats), a slice of pie 15 cents and a cup of coffee 5 cents. A new car costs $1,500, but the average income was $30 a week.

I love these books and the characters seem so authentic.

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