Cover image for The Florabama Ladies' Auxiliary & Sewing Circle
The Florabama Ladies' Auxiliary & Sewing Circle
Battle, Lois.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Viking, 2001.
Physical Description:
358 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


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From the author of Storyville and Bed and Breakfast-a funny, heartfelt, and poignant novel about the surprising power of a group of small-town women. "We've been screwed blued and tattooed," quips Hilly Pruitt at hearing the news of the closing of Cherished Lady, the local lingerie factory. Hilly, along with many other women in Florabama, have been relying on the factory for their livelihood for years. As Hilly always says; "Life is like a dog sled: If you ain't the lead dog, the scenery never changes." The same day the plant closes, Bonnie Duke Cullman begins her drive through a Gulf Coast storm to the first real job of her life. Her country-club-and-charity-committee existence has come to an end as abruptly as her marriage. In short, she too has been downsized. But luckily for Bonnie, she does have a job to go to: She's been hired to run a "Displaced Homemakers Program" for a podunk community college where the ex-bra seamstresses of Cherished Lady await her wisdom. In an unlikely alliance, Bonnie and the Florabama women join together in a midlife survival course where the events of a single year forever alter the way they see the world and their places in it. Despite their very different lineages, they find common ground in the longings and dreams we all share: for community, identity, security, and for love.

Author Notes

Lois Battle 's seven novels include Bed and Breakfast, Storyville, War Brides , and A Habit of the Blood , (all Penguin). She lives in Beaufort, South Carolina.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Bonnie Duke Cullman is cast out of her comfortable life in Atlanta when her husband files for bankruptcy. Newly divorced, she relocates to Florabama, Alabama, to take a job as coordinator of a program for displaced homemakers at a community college. It's Bonnie's first job in 25 years, but she quickly overcomes her jitters and starts to enjoy working with her hard-luck clients. Bonnie encourages the women to turn their fine sewing skills to making party garments for little girls to sell in an upscale Atlanta boutique. Meanwhile, a romance begins with Riz, an old friend with whom she spends several exciting weekends. Just when it seems we're headed for some pat, predictable resolutions, the story takes a few detours. Thanks to Bonnie's friend's irresponsible daughter, the party-dress scheme fizzles; Riz is not after all the man of Bonnie's dreams; and the displaced homemakers program ends after a year for lack of funding, leaving Bonnie to start over yet again. Battle's mature characters and Deep-South setting should appeal to lovers of Anne Rivers Siddons. --Mary Ellen Quinn

Publisher's Weekly Review

That readers who pick up Battle's (Bed & Breakfast) eighth novel, with its folksy, long Southern title, will expect something along the lines of the Ya-Yas is understandable; what awaits is, in fact, a considerably more sober affair. At age 50, Bonnie Duke Cullman has run out of luck. Accustomed since birth to a country-club existence, she's divorcing her no-good husband, who's just filed for bankruptcy, and striking out on her own. Never having had a serious job before, she accepts a position at a community college in Florabama, Ala.Äa position that, she later learns to her dismay, her father was instrumental in securing for her. A lingerie mill called Cherished Lady is being closed down, the work to be farmed out south of the border, and the college has hired Bonnie to run its program for displaced homemakers and workers. In a blind-leading-the-blind proposition, Bonnie is supposed to help the other women, many of whom are also middle-aged, figure out what to do with the rest of their livesÄpatient, religious Ruth wants to be a teacher; irascible, racist Hilly takes a job as a waitress in a Mexican restaurant. At times the novel feels like a stage set hammered together to support its pro-education message, but it compensates with likable characters and a core of compassion and independence. (Mar. 19) Forecast: A regional author tour will reinforce the novel's mostly local appeal, though its clever title may cause readers around the country to give the book a glance. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In this eighth novel from Battle (Bed & Breakfast), Bonnie Duke Cullman, a displaced, wealthy, Atlanta housewife and socialite, is forced to find work after her husband declares bankruptcy and leaves her for a younger woman. Her best friend and her father conspire to get Bonnie a job teaching at a junior college in southern Alabama, where she will coordinate the program for displaced homemakers. On the same day that Bonnie leaves Atlanta for Florabama, the local lingerie factory closes, displacing the women who will become Bonnie's students. All of the women face adversity during this transitional year. Despite this promising premise, the novel fails to fulfill its potential; all the characters sound alike despite apparent class differences, and the story is predictable albeit sweet. Libraries with large romance collections will want to purchase, but otherwise the book is not recommended. Pam Kingsbury, Alabama Humanities Fdn., Florence (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.