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The Fixer Upper: A Novel Hardcover – June 23, 2009

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Southern-Fried Romance
Read an excerpt from The Fixer Upper by Mary Kay Andrews [PDF].

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1ST edition (June 23, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060837381
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060837389
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (250 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #852,050 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Book Description

The delightful New York Times bestselling author returns with a hilarious novel about one woman's quest to redo an old house . . . and her life.

After her boss in a high-powered Washington public relations firm is caught in a political scandal, fledgling lobbyist Dempsey Jo Killebrew is left almost broke, unemployed, and homeless. Out of options, she reluctantly accepts her father's offer to help refurbish Birdsong, the old family place he recently inherited in Guthrie, Georgia. All it will take, he tells her, is a little paint and some TLC to turn the fading Victorian mansion into a real-estate cash cow.

But, oh, is Dempsey in for a surprise when she arrives in Guthrie. "Bird Droppings" would more aptly describe the moldering Pepto Bismol-pink dump with duct-taped windows and a driveway full of junk. There's also a murderously grumpy old lady, one of Dempsey's distant relations, who has claimed squatter's rights and isn't moving out. Ever.

Furthermore, everyone in Guthrie seems to know Dempsey's business, from a smooth-talking real-estate agent to a cute lawyer who owns the local newspaper. It wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the pesky FBI agents who show up on Dempsey's doorstep, hoping to pry information about her ex-boss from her.

All Dempsey can do is roll up her sleeves and get to work. And before long, what started as a job of necessity somehow becomes a labor of love and, ultimately, a journey that takes her to a place she never expected--back home again.

Mary Kay Andrews's Top Fives

We caught up with Mary Kay Andrews, the prolific author of The Fixer Upper, Deep Dish and other bestselling Southern-fried romances, and learned about a few of her favorite things--from books to musicals to interior decorating tips (a passion of hers which plays a prominent role in her new book).

Top Five Books

  1. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  2. Void Moon by Michael Connelly
  3. Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani
  4. Crazy for You by Jennifer Crusie
  5. Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard
Top Five Movies/DVDs
  1. Sabrina (the original with Audrey Hepburn)
  2. Charade (again, the original with Audrey Hepburn)
  3. When Harry Met Sally
  4. Auntie Mame (not the gawdawful musical)
  5. The Quiet Man
Top Five Movie Musicals
  1. Camelot
  2. Funny Girl
  3. South Pacific
  4. My Fair Lady
  5. West Side Story
Top Five Decorating Books
  1. Shabby Chic by Rachel Ashwell
  2. A House in the South by Frances Schultz and Paula Wallace
  3. Mary Emmerling's Beach Cottages by Mary Emmerling
  4. Mary Emmerling's American Country Cottages by Mary Emmerling
  5. An Affair with a House by Bunny Williams
Top Five Renovating Tips
  1. An old house needs old doors, hardware and fixtures. Nothing says “new and cheap” faster than a flimsy hollow-core door and bright gold repro brass hardware. Look for solid wood doors and wood frame windows at salvage yards and antique markets. And don’t forget to check the “building materials” category on Craigslist. I got all the doors for my beach house off Craigslist--for $5 apiece. Vintage hardware can frequently be found at flea markets, or check online sources like eBay.
  2. Vintage light fixtures give a great look--but be sure you factor in the cost of re-wiring them, and finding good-looking shades. Nothing gives a lamp that “granny” look faster than a dingy yellow shade.
  3. Before you invest in antique cast-iron claw-foot tubs or sinks, make sure they have proper fittings. Measure drains and faucet spreads and make sure you can find new ones that will fit and function properly. Antique toilets are generally a bad idea--most local codes require low-flow toilets for water conservation.
  4. Before re-wiring a house, put together a furniture floor plan. You don’t want a heat register under the living room sofa, but you will want outlets on either side of the bed for reading lamps, and for any area that might be used as an office you’ll want plenty of grounded plugs. And how about that flat-screen television your husband wants? Plan now for cable locations.
  5. Be flexible. A great fireplace surround could become a headboard, as could an old paneled door--turned sideways. And that leaded glass window that had to be removed in the remodel? Why not fit it with mirrors and a hinge and make it into a bathroom medicine cabinet?
Top Five Best Junking Finds
  1. Pair of barrel-back armchairs--$30 at an estate sale. They were covered in gold embossed vinyl when I found ‘em. But with the legs stained ebony, and a gorgeous blue Ralph Lauren fabric reupholstery, they’re perfect by my fireplace.
  2. Set of eight antique Wedgewood black and cream transferware plates--$30 at an estate sale. The seller’s mother used some of them for cat dishes, others as an ashtray!
  3. Vintage landscape oil painting, Tuscany maybe? Or Provence? Who cares! Bought at a “divorce sale”--the ex-husband sold this beautiful painting for $50 because it had belonged to his ex-wife. I spent a small fortune framing it, but it’s the basis for a collection of treasured landscape paintings.
  4. Wicker settee, Salvation Army find for $25. I’d walked to the store, and had to hoof it back home in a hurry for money and my car.
  5. Faux alligator train case--found at a yard sale. When I asked the seller if she’d do better on the price, she replied that she’d give it to me for free--if I could figure out how to open it. Since it had a combination lock like the one on my high school graduation luggage, I twirled the dial to 0-0-0--because I never figured out how to change mine--and sure enough, the lock popped open. Score!

From Publishers Weekly

Andrews's latest Southern charmer begins with junior lobbyist Dempsey Jo Killebrew in the crosshairs of a political bribery investigation. Suddenly unemployed and the victim of a sleazy smear campaign by her former boss, Dempsey decides to take up her father's offer of flipping a recently inherited family home in Guthrie, Ga. As it turns out, the house needs much more than a fresh coat of paint, and Dempsey's ornery cousin and her dog are squatting there. So it is that the formerly glamorous Dempsey steps into her dead uncle's overalls and chips her manicured nails as she scrubs and sands her way through fixing up the house, quickly finding a renovation groove, fitting in with the locals and embarking on a romance. Meanwhile, the FBI and a pesky reporter come asking questions about the bribery accusations. This authentic tale of cleaning up life's messes and self-discovery is bright, engaging and thoughtful, enlivened by Andrews's quirky characters and lovely backwoods setting. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

More About the Author

Mary Kay Andrews is the author of the New York Times bestselling Ladies' Night, Spring Fever, and Summer Rental, all from St. Martin's Press, as well as Savannah Breeze, Blue Christmas Hissy Fit, Little Bitty Lies and Savannah Blues, all HarperPerennial. On Oct. 15 St. Martin's Press will release her newest novel, CHRISTMAS BLISS

A former reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, she wrote ten critically acclaimed mysteries, including the Callahan Garrity mystery series, originally under her real name, Kathy Hogan Trocheck. The Callahan mysteries have recently been re-released by HarperPerennial, as Mary Kay Andrews writing as Kathy Hogan Trocheck.

A native of St. Petersburg, Florida (and a diplomate of the Maas Bros. Department Store School of Charm), she started her professional journalism career in Savannah, Georgia, where she covered the real-life murder trials which were the basis of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

As a lifelong ""junker"" the author claims to know the location of every promising thrift store, flea market and junkpile in the southeastern United States, plus many parts of Ohio.

She has a B.A. in newspaper journalism from The University of Georgia (go Dawgs!), and is a frequent lecturer and writing teacher at workshops and book festivals.

Married for more than 36 years to her high school sweetheart, Tom, she is the mother of two grown children and she divides her time between a restored 1926 Craftsman bungalow in Atlanta and a rambling old beach house on Tybee Island Georgia.

Related Media

Customer Reviews

It was entertaining and a fun, light summer read.
Andrea P. Flohr
The story is engaging, the characters endearing, and the setting interesting.
This is the second Mary Kay Andrews book I've read.
Doris M. Wright

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

63 of 67 people found the following review helpful By Mary VINE VOICE on June 23, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I like a book that has me laughing as I turn the last page. The Fixer Upper is smart, funny, and pretty much charmed my socks off. The political scandal is secondary to what I think is the main story - no, not the house rehab - I think its more about Dempsey fixing her life. Or at least figuring out what she wants to do with her life instead of trying to measure up to her parents' expectations. In the process she meets some wonderful people in Guthrie who show her some of what life has to offer. If you're looking for a good book to read this summer, you can't go wrong with The Fixer Upper.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Mima K on June 23, 2009
Format: Hardcover
What a fun read! The main plot revolves around an old family home in need of some major TLC, but there's so much more! The characters are so interesting and entertaining and the story is paced just right for a perfect summer read. It's a great mix of southern hospitality (or lack of),dysfunctional families, political misdeeds, humor and love. Based on "The Fixer Upper" I am going to read all of Mary Kay Andrews books!
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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Kelly on June 23, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I got an early copy of this book and fired through it. It is so fun. The characters are charming and quirky and funny. There is a great plot involving the plucky heroine facing down slimeball DC lobbyists and the FBI--and, of course, a love story and a dose of family drama. The real star of the book is the dilapidated house that is being brought back to life. You'll laugh AND be inspired to fix up your own place just a bit. Good stuff.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Amy Gill on July 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I was in the bookstore the day The Fixer Upper hit the shelves. Just couldn't wait to get my hands on it. And what a treat! It's way out in front as my favorite of Mary Kay Andrews' books. I didn't want it to end.

I love getting to know Dempsey as she gets to know herself. What a whirl wind she is -- such energy. I would love to meet her and see the house when it's finished. She became very real!!

Honestly, Mary Kay has out done herself on this one!!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By KR on July 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I've read all of Mary Kay's books and I had a hard time putting this one down. You're immediately sucked into Dempsey's worlds of political intrigue and small-town shenanigans. You may even find yourself cleaning vicariously as she tackles "Birdsong," the Southern mansion that needs more than a little spit and polish. The main characters are easy to get to know, but definitely have some quirks -- and there's also a smarmy villain who needs to be put in his place. The twists will keep you guessing until the last page.

The Fixer Upper is breezy fun -- and if you're not inspired to do the floors after reading it, you can take a crack at the recipes included at the end!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By J.L. McHale VINE VOICE on July 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Dempsey Killebrew, junior lobbyist for a large firm in Washington, flees to her father's newly-inherited plantation house in Guthrie, Georgia, when a scandal threatens her career. From there the story revolves around Dempsey's efforts at rehabilitating the house, playing nursemaid to a crotchety old woman and getting rid of the FBI agents who're tailing her. Along the way, as is expected, she meets a wonderful cast of characters and a potential love interest.

I guess my only complaint would be that the conclusion to this story left me a bit in the lurch. Without giving too much away, let's just say that Dempsey needs to make certain decisions about her life that are never really answered on the page. Because of that mere hinting at what she's decided to do, the story just peters out instead of leaving the readers with any of the "warm fuzzies" that are usually present at the conclusion of a Mary Kay Andrews novel.

This is a good story, and at times I laughed out loud at the antics of our Southern friends. But, I couldn't award full marks to this story because, to me, there was something missing.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By BeachReader on July 31, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I read some really good reviews of this by professional reviewers who usually review decent books, and so I guess I expected The Fixer Upper to be more than it was. It was too drawn out for me, and could have been edited down. I did like the parts of the book that were about renovation but found other parts too fanciful to be realistic. (Such as the way the FBI agents acted and spoke).

I did finish it, so I suppose it was not that bad. Just a quick, forgettable summer read.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Claire on September 17, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I am late to this book and was swayed by the positive reviews: mistake! If you like your "light" reading to have at least some basis in reality, The Fixer Upper is not the book to read. I hate writing bad reviews (after all, I'm not out there writing!!) but there were such major flaws in this book that I have to wonder whether MKA actually wrote it, and I also have to ask where were the editors?? This effort is really unworthy of such a good author:
-- the ending was rushed and so unrealistic that it is was as if MKA just didn't care anymore, how else can you explain the way the whole money issue was handled? That solution was totally illegal and so unreal that I have to wonder what she was thinking and why did the editor(s) not point this out? Even a fairy tale would have ended with everything tied up legally!
-- the romance between H/h just wasn't convincing. WHY were attracted to each other? What made them fall in love with each other? And what did they have in common that made them think marriage was a good idea? (apart from lust of course.)
-- the house remodel was only interesting in small doses and way too many words were spent on explaining it; I did lots of skimming. But even worse was the absolutely unrealistically smooth way the remodel moved forward. Nothing ever went wrong and the heroine was an instant pro at this stuff. Didn't feel like any remodel I've ever been through or even heard about!
-- the basic mistakes made in describing how things work in Washington took me out of the story over and over again. As did the unrealistic portrayal of how the FBI does things. Very distracting and seems to indicate sloppy research.
In all, I felt this book was a waste of time. Instead of feeling uplifted I felt annoyed. This is definitely not the best MKA book out there!
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