We gave it a B-
Hud Smith, the protagonist of Timothy Schaffert’s strenuously whimsical second novel, The Singing and Dancing Daughters of God, drives a school bus in rural Nebraska while swigging vodka and scribbling notes on his jeans — e.g., ”Divorce,” ”Lonesome” — for later use in his songwriting. His musical philosophy: ”The key to an authentic country song…was to tell the story of a life lived stupidly and give it pretty strains of remorse.” Well, Hud has plenty of material. Recently divorced from Tuesday, his wife of almost 20 years, he hangs out at the local drive-in and nurses a crush on Charlotte, his adolescent son’s ex-girlfriend. Tuesday, meanwhile, has begun a flirtation with Charlotte’s hunky father, Ozzie, who quotes Sam Shepard and sells peaches from the back of his pickup. Schaffert has wit and a lovely writing style, but he plays up his characters’ screwball quirks at the expense of their inner lives. The result: a corny facsimile of an authentic country song.