THE SWEET LIFE: IDA LECLAIR’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MARRIAGE

By Susan Poulin

Islandport Press, 2016

205 pages, $16.95

ISBN 978-1-939017-95-6

Forget Dr. Phil. Who needs an overpaid television talking head when Maine has Ida LeClair to straighten out all kinds of marriage problems?

Ida is the brassy alter-ego of Eliot actress, storyteller and wiseacre Susan Poulin. Ida and her hilarious, on-target advice began as Poulin’s stage show, then appeared in her first book, “Finding Your Inner Moose,” in 2012.

“The Sweet Life” is as funny as you’d expect, but it’s also refreshingly serious as Ida and her husband, Charlie, provide wise guidance on marriage, sex, growing old, preparing for the loss of a spouse and living again as a single person.

These subjects are difficult to talk about, often disrupting relationships, causing anxiety and fear. Fortunately, Ida is not shy and forcefully declares: You are responsible for your own happiness, so quit whining and start fixing whatever needs fixing.

Ida and Charlie have been married for 40 years and have learned that a good marriage is like a whoopie pie — two tasty pieces of cake cookie with a lot of sweetness in between holding them together. Ida discusses marital sex — “I’m in favor of it” — how to rekindle romance in the double-wide, and the importance of just three words: “please” and “thank you.”

Best, however, is her wisdom about arguing with your spouse: “Do you want to be right or happy?” She also offers outstanding guidance for preparing for old age together — legal documents, financial planning, medical directives and funeral wishes.

Dating again after losing a spouse gets hilarious and accurate treatment: Buy all new underwear (guys, too), get a haircut and stow all that old baggage. Most important: Forget about trying to change someone. It didn’t work the first time (or second) and it won’t work now.

THE BODY IN THE WARDROBE: A FAITH FAIRCHILD MYSTERY

By Katherine Hall Page.

William Morrow, 2016

237 pages, $25.99

ISBN 978-0-06-243950-5

Maine’s Agatha Award-winning mystery writer, Katherine Hall Page, has made a literary career out of her enduring character Faith Fairchild, the catering sleuth featured in 22 previous mystery novels.

“The Body In The Wardrobe” continues the Faith Fairchild string and sees the return of Sophie Maxwell, Faith’s friend who appeared in the recent novel, “The Body In The Birches.” However, Hall’s loyal Fairchild fans will be disappointed with this effort. Faith takes a distant back seat to Sophie, and neither woman does much detective work in this anemic story.

Sophie is a Yankee lawyer and a newlywed married into an aristocratic Savannah, Georgia, family wrapped in Old South customs and sugary manners. Life in Savannah is full of parties, food, booze and the petty jealousies and boorish behavior of a family more interested in acting like characters than in having character. And her new husband, Will, is often away on unspoken, curious business, leaving Sophie adrift amid mint juleps and pecan pie.

Faith, meanwhile, is self-absorbed with her own family issues: an unhappy daughter being bullied by mean girls at school, her minister husband considering a change to a new parish, and an elderly neighbor nervously wondering if she might be related to Paul Revere.

Amid these sappy family dramas, Sophie discovers a dead body in a wardrobe at her mother-in-law’s house, but the body disappears and nobody believes her. Surprisingly, a hundred pages go by before anybody investigates anything. Sophie finally calls Faith for help, but Faith doesn’t show up for another hundred pages.

When the two women finally join forces, they solve the mystery in just 10 pages in an unsatisfying conclusion to a limp and confusing mystery plot short on suspense, action or a pulse. Even Faith’s southern cuisine recipes don’t cut it.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.


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