Chicken Dinner News

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Jeff Billington 2023

Ryan Shipley wants to go home, and everybody except Ryan knows that.  Raised in California where he works for a Los Angeles newspaper, Ryan travels to his deceased father’s Ozark hometown of White Oak, Missouri to attend his grandfather’s funeral, only to learn that he has inherited much of the town’s real estate, as well as the local newspaper, which was owned and run by his grandfather.

Will this be Ryan’s home? It’s tough to fill his grandfather’s shoes, and there are only a few who think Ryan can do it.  There’s some conflict, some romance, and more than a little nostalgia for a place Ryan dimly remembers and didn’t know he missed. Will he stay in White Oak or return to California?

Events in White Oak pick up after a leisurely start; there are two scenes in particular that kept me turning pages. I needed to find out what happened to the old high school, and I couldn’t sleep until I knew how things played out during an emotionally charged family dinner.

Starting with Billington’s unadorned dedication to his grandparents, the most beautiful, elegant prose in this book is the simplest – statements and descriptions that are mainly nouns and verbs, with maybe one descriptor.  If all of the prose and dialogue were as spare, this would be a five-star novel; the plot is solid and engaging.  As it stands, the story is an enjoyable read with four stars.

White Oak has some engaging characters; it feels like there’s room for a few sequels here. Relationships could be fleshed out and readers could learn what happens to the empty buildings in White Oak. Fingers crossed for “The White Oak Novels.”

My thanks to the author, from whom I received a complimentary copy of this book. I used it to write my honest review.