Hello, Gorgeous! opens on Halloween 1984 at the parsonage, where the Rev. Corky Pearlman has playfully donned a witch costume. He is still dressed so when the police come to arrest him for child molesting. The story ends five months later when he again meets Josie Flannery, the little girl he has, perhaps, molested.
Wit, humor and sympathy distinguish this fiction, which looks into lives and households of the time. Each scene's characters offer a different slant. Fred, an out-of-work tech writer, attempts to break into freelancing with this story. His awkward efforts to please New York provide comedy in a dark situation.1)
The action occurs in several neighborhood locations: the dysfunctional parsonage; the meetinghouse; an old drugstore; the pharmacist's home; the public library; the home of the molested child and her enraged parents; and the nursing home where Corky can still preach.
These people all have problems, many work-related. Fred, the would-be author, now uses a library carrel as his office. Sara, the pharmacist, unhappily manages her overbearing father's drugstore to gain the old man's approval. The minister's wife has been unemployed since her children's services agency closed in the Reagan cutbacks. And of course, Corky will never again be called to a parish.
In Josie's home the adult Flannerys struggle over control of their daughter, Eve trying to improve her looks and Dunk trying to whip her behavior into shape. Eve enrolls the nine year-old in a weight loss program, where, in a memorable scene, Josie learns to turn revulsion into weight loss.
The novel ends ambiguously, like life, with change for everyone and modest improvement for some.
1) "In Lewton, we have a writer with the courage to look into the shadows and laugh." (from a review of my short fiction by Margaret D. McGee)