The book is The Lumby Lines, by Gail Fraser. Fraser manages to appeal to both Baby Boomers and Gen Y simultaneously. The first novel of the series is crafted to be hip enough to engage the young and cultured enough to engage the old.
My one and only complaint revolves around the opening of the book. The first sentence made me wish I was reading something else. It wasn't until the last sentence of the paragraph that I rested easier knowing that someone in the story used the Internet. My chief concern was that this might be some sort of Little House on the Praire or Anne of Green Gables knock off, where the plot is so sterile and "wholesome" that you can't help but feel toxic from all the unrealistic purity.
That was not a problem here, though The Lumby Lines is definitely a family friendly tale. Focus on the Family types would give Lumby kudos for creating an engaging story without relying on the sensationalism of most contemporary mass market paperbacks. But unlike most "family friendly" novels, Lumby is full of believable (though somewhat odd) characters.
You know how they say that the difference between crazy and eccentric is a million dollars? Well, in this instance, it is humor that forges the distance. Lumby is a comfortable blend of bizarre and small town. The citizens of Lumby are just normal enough to make their oddities pass as quirks. You don't always see the characters' quirkiness in their day to day interactions. But each printing of the local newspaper, The Lumby Lines, provides the Sheriff's Complaints – a daily list of bizarre calls, accidents, complaints, and incidents dealt with by the local Sheriff.
Lumby is a town where the news consists of the most irregular accidents and teenage vandalism. The artificial pink flamingo, Hank, is one of the town's most popular celebrities. Animals are forever causing havoc and traffic accidents and such. Someone is painting the town's mailboxes lime green in the night hours. The mayor is a dog. Goats are locked up in the bank vault. Very little about this town would be deemed "normal".
When outsiders Mark and Pam decide to turn Montis Abbey into Montis Inn, they cause an uproar among the townsfolk as everyone takes sides over whether the new neighbors are a good thing or bad. What ensues is a relaxing, entertaining tale of growth and discovery.
It remains to be seen how Fraser will expand character development throughout the series. Part of the charm of The Lumby Lines is found in the discovery of such a quaint and quirky little town. In order to keep up a loyal fan base, each novel to come must build on the characters and story lines begun here without the aid of that first impression.
Overall, The Lumby Lines was a refreshing read. Unlike most books I have read since college, I felt more in tune with nature, culture, and the human condition for reading it. Without becoming overly serious, Fraser reminds the reader that the world is full of much more wonder and simple pleasures than can be contained in this concrete jungle we call "city life." If I were to summarize the book in one phrase, it would be "simple pleasures." While the story has many admirable traits, the most beneficial to me is the focus placed on simple, natural pleasures like ancient architecture, scenic landscapes, a good wine, and close friends.