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Pretty Is As Pretty Does: A Novel [Paperback]

Alison Clement
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Paperback, April 22 2003 --  
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Book Description

April 22 2003
Lucy Fooshee has just married Bob Bybee, the second-richest farmer in the county if you don't count the Winklejohns -- and who'd want a name like Winklejohn anyway? Add her enviable hubby to the local beauty queen titles she's won on account of her slim figure, full lips, and all-around good looks, and Lucy's the most envied young woman in Palmyra, Illinois. The most admired by men, too. Funny thing, though: now that she's married, no one even seems to notice anymore, and Lucy's feeling irritable. So when Billy Lee -- a stranger with no prospects -- comes to town and sees her in a whole new way, he upsets Lucy's applecart. Sure, she's got everything anyone in Palmyra could want, but maybe that's just not enough. With her striking humor and picture-perfect observations about life in a small town, Alison Clement tells the hilarious, lusty, and ultimately touching story of a fiercely independent woman trapped in the body of a small-town beauty queen.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

In her first novel, Clement sets herself a sticky challenge: she saddles herself with a heroine who is vain, selfish, sharp-tongued and obtuse, and who indulges in egotistical behavior hurtful to others, until, through suffering and regret, she emerges sadder, wiser and ready to fulfill her destiny. The trouble is that 22-year-old Lucy Fooshee, who narrates this initially amusing and then confusing tale, is so annoying that some readers will not stay around to see her triumph over her own bad nature. Lucy has been married only two weeks to farmer Bob Bybee when she catches sight of the new counterman at the town diner in Palmyra, Ill., and becomes totally besotted with handsome Bill Lee. The winner of several local beauty contests, and smugly accustomed to thinking of herself as God's gift to men, sexpot Lucy immediately comes on to the bewildered Billy, who eventually succumbs to her advances. Meanwhile Bob, whom Lucy selected as husband material merely because he comes from the second-richest family in the community, is left in the dark about his bride's change of heart, until even he becomes aware of her flagrant adultery. Though Lucy pays the price for her unconscionable behavior, Clement seems to condone Lucy's actions because she's caught in the grip of passion; the damage Lucy does to others is beside the point. It's true that everyone in Bob's uppity family, and in Lucy's poor white-trash clan, is ill-bred, ugly and racially bigoted. But in despising them all, Lucy herself does not become more appealing. West Coast author tour.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From Library Journal

Small-town, Midwestern beauty queen Lucy Fooshee begins a charming, surprising romance just two weeks after her marriage to dull Bob Bybee, a farmer from the second-richest family in the county. Lucy's unself-conscious appreciation of her own good looks and good fortune in her marriage are endearing, as is her precipitous fall from grace when she falls madly for the nephew of Aunt Babe, a local restaurateur. Billy Lee, as the locals hiss with delight, is not altogether white, and this racist indignation over his mixed Native American heritage helps bring Lucy and Billy's shocking affair to a swift end. Lucy's realization that her perfect life is boring is the chief plot development, but she's a fresh, spunky heroine who lights up this first novel. Recommended for all fiction collections.Ann H. Fisher, Radford P.L., VA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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First Sentence
I knew as soon as I laid eyes on Billy Lee here comes trouble, that's what I said to myself. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Pretty Is As Pretty Does May 16 2003
I read this book when it first came out in hardcover and I recently saw it in the bookstore in paperback. I love the cover! The hunky picture of Billy Lee will tickle your ovaries as you nod to yourself reading of Lucy Fooshee's predicament. Yes, her good looks and unruly passions have driven her life's actions. Her passionately ambitious ego needed to find a way for her to
shine amidst the humdrum predictability of the small town into which she was born and raised. Was she unconciously programmed to create the train wreck we could see coming for many chapters? Her life was not about the intellect or reason. She was not remotely sensible. She drove me crazy! My inner mantra as I read was "Don't do it! Don't do it!" It became hard to turn the page. But that was the fun of it, watching my own reaction to this woman who catches sexual fire and refuses to douse the flames. Then comes the power of transformation that probably required the train wreck to occur. I wonder if we can hope for a sequel with the new awakened Lucy. We get only a taste of her and I suspect those passions will continue to express themselves in new hopefully less destructive ways, but I'd like to know.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A bravura performance May 14 2002
By "jpmb"
Allison Clements pulls off an amazing feat in her debut novel. She creates a character who is vain, selfish, and not particularly self-aware, lets her tell her story in the first person, and makes us cheer for her!
Even as some very predictable plot points come along, when the reader knows exactly what's going to happen and knows it will happen because of the character's flaws, we still hold our breath and hope it somehow will come out all right.
There's a lot of small town stuff that rings true in this amazing novel, and there's a great twist at the end that the reader WILL NOT see coming. There's also a sort of timelessness. Clements has carefully not cemented the story into a specific time or decade, so we can all feel as if it's part of our own life.
In the end, it's not about whether Lucy can get together with Billy Lee. It's about whether she will find out who SHE is. That journey turns out to be incredibly entertaining. This is a perfect summer book. A lot of fun and a great read.
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Lucy Fooshee Bybee, the beleaguered protagonist of Alison's Clement convincing debut novel, has a problem. Trapped in the socially suffocating environment of Palmyra, Illinois is pre-feminist, mid twentieth-century America, Lucy yearns for a release from the psychological imprisonment she suffers in a mistaken marriage; she knows her life is out of kilter -- despite being blessed/cursed with exquisite physical beauty -- but she is not sure of the direction or actions she must take to liberate herself and discover her own authentic self. "Pretty Is As Pretty Does" is far more than one woman's quest for existential wholeness; it is a biting social commentary and s scathing expose of what women across America experienced in a culture which extolled their physical self and minimized their emotional needs and intellectual capabilities. This is an extraordinarily capable and important fist novel.
Set in a time where feminist complaints were inaudible and a place where small-town virtues locked women into subordinate roles, "Pretty" explores the explosive consequences when one woman takes control of her own life. This was an America where a woman's good looks were perceived as the best asset to a happy life -- all attained through marriage to one of the town's wealthiest men, of course. Lucy is acutely aware of the fleeting nature of her own beauty; she even algebraically computes the half-life of her attractivenss. Restless, angry, sexually unfulfilled and absolutely convinced that life must have more to offer than watching her porcine husband shovel mounds of food into his mouth, Lucy does not have the array of answers and options clearly available to liberated women of contemporary times.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Glimpse Into Smalltown Life Nov. 16 2001
This is a story about a local beauty queen and her fall from grace. It is told through the eyes of Lucy Fooshee (Foo-shay)-- an ultimately likable young woman whose passion for Billy Lee ("a stranger with no prospects") literally transforms her:

... "People think they know what love means, but they don't. Until you know, you just have no idea. You think you know, but you don't. And when you do know, then nothing else matters. Nobody in Palmyra knows. I've lived with these people all my life and now that I know, I can tell none of them do. It's like one of those dog whistles you blow and nobody can hear a thing, but all the dogs bark and whine and go crazy. And whenever Billy is around me that dog whistle is blowing and nobody else bats a eye..."
Lucy is a character with many shortcomings: she is vain, self-centered, manipulative, fickle, and selfish -- but her witty observations about her smalltown surroundings are right on. Her voice captures the smallness (both literally and figuratively) of Palmyra, Illinois: its petty jealousies, their patterns of speech, the blatant racism, and the peevishness of its townfolk. I found myself cheering her on despite her actions. I empathized with her feelings of boredom, the expectations of her family, and her oafish husband:
... "Everybody would say I wronged Bob when I took Billy to the Holiday Inn motel and laid in bed with him there, but that wasn't nothing compared to this. My real adultery is here at the window when I watch him work and I don't want anything else and nobody else and I know that I'll never go back to Bob and who I was when I was with Bob. I'll never sleep with Bob again, I tell myself. I'm not his wife anymore, if I ever was...
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Pretty Pleased
Instead of Eudora Welty's "Why I live at the P.O.," it could very well be Alison Clement's "Why I'm Leaving Palmyra. Read more
Published on May 20 2003 by ROSEMARY CUNNINGHAM
5.0 out of 5 stars Teen Queen Grows Up
Lucy Fooshee (Foo-SHAY, from the French she reminds us) is a teen beauty queen who had followed the conventions that she took in with her momma's milk and that have been reinforced... Read more
Published on May 10 2003 by Tamara Taylor
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing women
The story is about a hoocker that falls in love with a rich guy.The genre of this book is fiction.[Isabel Hernandez]
Published on Feb. 6 2003 by tturner
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great read!
I really enjoyed this book and hated to see it end. I absolutely love the writers style. It is a easy read with great flow. I look forward to more books by Allison Clement. Read more
Published on May 19 2002 by Brenn 10
5.0 out of 5 stars Smacks of Eudora Welty!
This is a wonderful book. A wise, observant story, heart wrenching, but funny. The main character is a young woman who, as the story begins, is an absolute narcissist. Read more
Published on April 24 2002
4.0 out of 5 stars Not the best I've ever read
"Pretty is...." was pretty decent. I picked it up simply because the girl was from "Palmyra." I can honestly say... Read more
Published on April 22 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars Vernacular Writing at Its Best!
I highly recommend this book. It's vernacular writing creates an aura of in-your-face honesty. The flawed heroine is Lucy Fooshee, a former beauty queen from a small town in... Read more
Published on April 6 2002 by Pamela Stone
4.0 out of 5 stars and beauty is only skin deep...
You begin in a suffocatingly hot greasy spoon and end up in a cadillac with the wind in your hair. I liked Lucy Fooshee from the start; sure she's too aware of her beauty and... Read more
Published on Feb. 12 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars A sweet masterpiece
Wow, where has this woman been hiding? What a brillaint new author. This is the start of a great career, I hope, because I want more books like this one.
Published on Jan. 21 2002
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