Mira Books, 2004
My Rating: B
So many people have suggested I try a book, any book, by Curtiss Ann Matlock that I finally did. I picked Sweet Dreams At the Goodnight Motel because I liked the cover. I thought it would be a fun, light-hearted read. It was, but I got a lot more.
As the novel opened I met Claire, who’s at her lowest ebb. Her ex-husband is re-marrying in a few weeks and she’d like to have him back. But that’s not the only thing that has Claire in such a slump. She doesn’t like her job and, except for her ex-sister-in-law, she doesn’t have any friends. She’s also missing a family. Her father left them when she was about five and her mother died last year. Claire is at what the author calls a pivotal moment. Here’s the first paragraph:
Sometimes a person sees or hears something at a particularly pivotal moment. Behind the moment, though, is a lot of time, years maybe, where all manner of unfed desires and dashed dreams have been jammed down and compressed, very much like packing in an explosive. Then comes that particular moment that ignites the fuse. The lid is blown off, and all those desires and dreams come spewing forth which accounts for all manner of both passionate crimes and daring new lives.
Claire’s pivotal moment came when she read a message on a bathroom wall. The part that got to her was “looking for real life.” Claire took a couple days to ponder that and then made up her mind. She quit her job, packed up her mercedes, and drove out of Shreveport. Her destination was Valentine, Oklahoma.
Valentine was her father’s hometown. Even though her father or any relative may not be there, Claire felt the need to connect with the place. Upon arriving in the town, she noticed a 1950’s style motel called the Goodnight Motel. It brought back fond memories of her childhood, including the vibrator beds. Claire checks in.
The next morning Claire discovers her car had been stolen by the young man in the room next door. The young man not only stole her car, he robbed and then abandoned his pregnant girlfriend. Soon the two motel owners, the sheriff and his deputies are involved and then a number of the good people in Valentine.
One by one Claire (and I) met some of the most interesting people. I especially liked Vella who owns the local drugstore and Corrine, a teenager living with her aunt. But I really fell in love with Winston Valentine, a 92-year-old gentleman who immediately fell in love with Claire.
As Claire extended her vacation in Valentine and made new friends, she had the opportunity to examine her childhood, her marriage, her career, and what she really wanted to do with the rest of her life. Claire became intrigued with the idea of changing the Goodnight Motel and the idea of staying permanently in Valentine. And then, her ex-husband showed up wanting her back.
I enjoyed this story for a number of reasons. It was fun getting to know the characters primarily because each one had problems. They weren’t one-dimensional. I also liked the way the story was told from the viewpoint of a variety of characters. It was not in the least bit confusing. I really got to know Vella through the late night emails she sent a man in Pennsylvania. It didn’t make any difference that I hadn’t read any of the other novels set in Valentine. This one stood alone quite nicely. I am, however, going back for more.
So now it’s my turn to recommend this book to others. People were right when they said try a book by Curtiss Ann Matlock. You won’t be sorry,
I read this one on my Kindle ($5.04) but you should also check your local library. Sweet Dreams At The Goodnight Motel is also available at Amazon. (I am an Amazon Associate.)