• 66°

DG Martin: Quirky characters work to save Hatteras Lighthouse in novel

By D.G. Martin

Do you remember back in 1999 when the Hatteras Lighthouse was moved about 1,000 yards to escape  the rising ocean?

A happy outcome was not a certainty at the beginning. Some people were sure the lighthouse was certain to collapse during the move.

Would you believe that a young girl from the Outer Banks brought together her friends to cast a spell to keep the lighthouse from falling down during the move?

It happens fictionally in a story told by the central character of the Lee Smith Award-winning debut novel by Raleigh author Heather Frese, “The Baddest Girl on the Planet.”

The little girl, Evelyn, narrates the story, but she does not begin at the beginning, and that is part of the great charm of the book. She opens the book in 2013 when she is 23, married to Stephen, mother to their four-year-old son Austin, and working at Outer Banks Realty. There she has launched an affair with a co-worker, something that will result in her divorce and life as a single mom.

“My husband is not the first man to disappoint me,” she writes. “That honor goes to Mike Tyson.”

How Mike Tyson is responsible for her baddest girl tag is a thin thread that gives this book a quirky plot line.

Evelyn, Stephen, Austen, and the other quirky characters remind me of those constructed by best-selling authors Anne Tyler and Lee Smith.

In chapter three, it is 1999. Evelyn, who is called Evie, writes, “I am nine years old, and now, I’m a gypsy. I live in the National Seashore Campground in Frisco, North Carolina.”

She is living in her beloved Aunt Fay’s house, which is not a house but a camper wagon. On a moonlight night Evie drags her new friend Charlotte to the lighthouse site to cast a spell. Evie’s brother, Nate, and Aunt Faye appear, and at midnight they cast a spell, chanting, “Cats and dogs, pigs and hogs. Sturdy up the lighthouse logs.”

The lighthouse does not fall.

In chapter 4, in 2013, Evie wins a week-long trip to the Dominican Republic. She invites her long-time friend Charlotte to go with her on a prize vacation. It does not work out and both wish for the time on Hatteras when they first met.

Two years later, when Charlotte shows up for Aunt Fay’s funeral, we get a lesson on funeral etiquette and meet Walter, “Aunt Fay’s beloved but ill-mannered dog,” who competes to be the book’s quirkiest character.

In chapter seven, titled “Postpartum,” it is 2009. Evie has just given birth to Austin. She is not happy and writes, “Dear Abby, I look at my baby’s squalling red face and I want to run away. What do I do? [signed] Horrible in Hatteras.”

Abby does not respond.

Chapters nine and twelve are set in Las Vegas where Evie travels with her long-time Irish pen pal, Eamon O’Shea. He is charming as a letter writer, but a quirky total jerk in person. How she dumps him is one of the book’s best stories.

Free of Eamon, she learns that Mike Tyson is in Vegas.

When Evie was nine, in Ohio to visit Charlotte, she saw Tyson and got his attention. Back home on the island she inflated the story to make Tyson her very close friend. That worked well until her friends found out that Tyson was a rapist. It was, Evie believed, the beginning of her “bad girl” reputation.

In Las Vegas, she wants revenge and spends her last hours roaming the Strip in a determined, comical and totally unsuccessful attempt to find Tyson. Back home on the island in 2019, she meets another quirky character, a man who falls in love with her, making a happy ending a possibility.

But not for certain.

D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” Sunday 3:30 p.m. and Tuesday at 5 p.m. on PBS North Carolina (formerly UNC-TV).

Comments

Business

Weak jobs report spurs questions about big fed spending

News

Judge limits footage that family can see of deputy shooting in Elizabeth City

Sports

Woodland, two others share lead; Mickelson plays much worse but will still be around for weekend at Quail Hollow

Business

Former NHL player to open mobster themed bar in Raleigh

Nation/World

California population declines for first time

News

GOP leaders differ on bottom line for state spending

News

Police: Man killed in shootout with officers in Winston-Salem

Crime

Man charged after thieves rob would-be gun buyers of wallets, shoes

Crime

Blotter: Four added to sheriff’s most wanted list

High School

High school football: Some anxious moments, but Hornets win state title

Local

Photos: Salisbury High Hornets win big in 2AA championship game

Local

County manager outlines projections for the upcoming fiscal year budget, suggests uses for stimulus money

Business

Miami-based Browns Athletic Apparel opens second screen printing location in Salisbury

News

At funeral, fallen Watauga deputies remembered as ‘heroes’

Coronavirus

COVID-19 cluster identified at Granite Quarry Elementary

Coronavirus

More than half of North Carolinians have now taken at least one vaccine shot

Local

City hopes to cover expenses in 2021-22 budget with surplus revenue generated this year

Local

Fallen tree proves to be a blessing for local nonprofit Happy Roots

Local

Quotes of the week

Coronavirus

Health department drops quarantine time from 14 to 10 days

Crime

Blotter: More than $100,000 in property reported stolen from Old Beatty Ford Road site

Local

City fights invasive beetles by injecting trees with insecticide

Local

City names downtown recipients for federal Parks Service grant

China Grove

China Grove Town Council weighs 2021-22 budget priorities, supports buying body cameras