THE SCHOOL OF BEAUTY AND CHARM
Louise Peppers is a lush. Having discovered the alcoholic joys of vanilla extract at age 7, Louise, as a teen, would rather swill tequila, cognac, or whatever else she can get her hands on than walk the straight, God-fearing Baptist line that her parents have laid out for her in Counterpoint, Ga. When her older brother dies in a freak accident, Louise takes a hell-bent turn for the worse, staggering through episodes spiked with massive overeating, sex, and, eventually, carnies. Sumner similarly staggers her way through School: Though her prose can be intoxicating, her debut novel ends up having the effect of a drunken escapade — colorful characters and incidents at every turn, but with little cohesion and too much forgotten in a bleary haze by the time it’s over.