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The Honk and Holler Opening Soon Paperback – May 1, 1999
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From Publishers Weekly
Letts's gently humorous second novel confirms the promise of her debut, Where the Heart Is. For 12 years, wheelchair-bound restaurateur and Vietnam vet Caney Paxton hasn't left his Sequoyah, Okla., cafe, known (thanks to a sign-maker's error) as the Honk and Holler Opening Soon. Now it's Christmas time, 1985, and for Caney and four-times married waitress Molly O, who helped raise him, the holiday looks bleak: business is slumping, overdue bills are piling up and the roof is leaking. Worried about her teenage daughter, Brenda, a country musician seeking her fortune in Nashville, Molly O is too preoccupied to recognize the romantic interest of cafe regular Life Halstead; Caney, ashamed of his part in the war, feels trapped by his wound and his painful past. But that changes when luck brings the Honk and Holler two new employees: beautiful young Crow Indian drifter Vena Takes Horse, who signs on as a carhop, and Vietnamese refugee Bui Khanh, a cook and handyman running from a guilty secret of his own. Initially skeptical of the two outsiders, Honk and Holler habitu?s come to value Vena and Bui, especially after an act of violence threatens Bui's life. Even a few unresolved loose ends can't diminish the cumulative effect of this warm, sentimental tale, abundant with quirky detail and homespun wisdom, which emphasizes not only the power of romantic love but the healing powers of community as well. Author tour.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From School Library Journal
YA-In 1973, Caney Paxton returned from Vietnam in a wheelchair. While in the VA hospital, he and some buddies designed a cafe that was built on a then-busy highway outside of Sequoyah, OK. The cafe was supposed be called The Honk and Holler, but because of a misunderstanding and about a half a case of Coors, the nonrefundable $600 red-neon sign read "The Honk and Holler Opening Soon." Caney retreated to his cafe and for 12 years led a lonely life with only his combat nightmares and his regular customers for company. One day shortly before Christmas, a Crow woman named Vena Takes Horse appears at the door wearing red cowboy boots and carrying a severely injured dog. Caney could see that "she was trouble" but gave her a job, thus changing his life forever. Bui Khanh, a Vietnamese immigrant, arrives sometime after Vena and in broken English also asks for work. He becomes more than a short-order cook; he helps free Caney from his terrible nightmares. Caney, Vena, and Bui become the focus in a cast of unforgettable characters who carry heavy burdens and live life on the edge. As she did in the award-winning novel Where the Heart Is (Warner, 1995), Letts will again captivate young adults with this story of love, hope, and humanity.
Carol Clark, R. E. Lee High School, Springfield, VA
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
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Once again, Ms. Letts captures a slice of Americana with vanilla ice cream on the side. Her story involves very unique characters that literally fall out of cars and trucks on the door step of The Honk and Holler (Opening Soon).
The cafe has been open and is central to the town it serves. The sign is an error which has subjected the owner to more teasing than any one should have to take. But, it works in Caney Paxton's favor, for as the owner he has benefited from the notoriety of the mistake. Unfortunately, he really doesn't appreciate the up side of the down side.
Caney lives with a sense of failure. He is a Viet Nam vet and suffered a serious injury which has turned his world upside down into a right side up wheel chair. He vacillates between feeling sorry for himself and down right angry, not to mention, hopeless and spiritless. He goes through the motions of the very demanding responsibilities of running the cafe and eventually allows himself to be bound mentally and physically to the boundary of the cafe. Shielding himself behind the responsibilities of the cafe management never allow him to recognize how fearful of life this once very strong and courageous man has become.
Together with Molly O, described as a "mother hen" and senior waitress, they encounter a unique cast of characters landing on the doorstep of the Honk and Hollar begging for jobs and temporary refuge. The assortment of people literally change the life and world of Caney. When the door swings open, and it is not a customer, Caney doesn' t realize, but he is in for a world of change and challenge.
Lucky for us, we are along for the ride.
Honk and Holler is one year of small-town Oklahoma life sliced to include two Christmas seasons decorated with recycled tinsel. The stage is a struggling café where regular patrons and a happenstance staff nurture one another with their idiosyncrasies. The story opens with a diversity of troubles progressively divulged, some of which are more or less resolved with love and forgiveness, while others evolve. You will recognize most of the characters and their plights, if you have lived long enough, and if you haven't, sooner or later you will encounter them. Perhaps they are a bit quirkier than the ones you know, or will meet, because they have been embellished, made vibrant by a good storyteller.
A year later the characters have settled some troubles, or so they think, and confront new worries. They are upbeat and hopeful; life goes on. It's a good read and, like my daddy wrote, you'll look back and relish the experience.
The story centers around "The Honk", a diner operated by a parapeligic Viet Nam Vet. Ms. Letts creates a blend of distinct and (mostly) lovable characters, including some "regulars" of the diner and a couple of people who appear and become the catalyst for change. Ms. Letts leads the characters through a whole range of life events, which leave you with the entire range of emotions. In the end, you are left with the feeling that these people have formed a family of their own, probably with stronger bonds than "real" families.
If you loved "Where the Heart Is", you will love this book. I hope that Ms. Letts is writing another book, as we speak!