former beauty queen wrestles with her roles of daughter, mother, and wife of an adulterer--in Gilbert's funny, at times insightful, novel (Hairdo, Dixie Riggs). Pammy Outlaw, ex-Miss South Carolina, is slim and beautiful, mother of a beautiful, smart 12-year-old, but her life is a nightmare. Handsome husband Flick, formerly a good provider, has gone back to school for his Ph.D. in lit; she, meanwhile, has no intellectual pretensions--we get to hear Flick deconstruct a fish tank--but it still hurts when Flick and his new friends snub her. Furthermore, Flick complains about the expense of Pammy's dragging daughter Evie on the same sort of beauty pageant circuit that made Pammy's childhood miserable. Then Pammy finds Flick's hotel bill from a liaison with a fellow grad student...so it's home to mother, the ex-Miss New Jersey. We learn that Pammy has often fantasized killing her mother with hatchets, yet she says, ``...the greatest love in the world is the love that goes on between a mother and a daughter and it never makes any sense at all.'' As Evie approaches puberty, we also learn that Pammy had an abortion at 13. Now, a pair of summer gloves handed down through the women of the family are given to Pammy by her mother, to supplement the rest of the handed-down burdens, like fear of food and a warped self-image. To top if off, her mother has entered the three of them in a grandmother-mother-daughter beauty contest. Pammy's good-girl self says she should get back together with the joyless Flick, but instead she has a fling with Sam--a middle-aged pilot and lawyer with sexy hands--and, eventually, learns to ``fly'' on her own
A former beauty queendiscovers trouble in her marriage as she spends the majority of her time with her 13 year old daughter on the beauty circuit. The ensuing tale of self discovery and revealations is funny and heartwarning with insighful thrown in.