The Red Hat Club Rides Again

The Red Hat Club Rides Again

St. Martin’s Press
ISBN: 0-312-31691-7 (hardcover)
On Sale: March 15, 2005

Put on your red hats and plenty of attitude, and spend a hilarious, heartwarming read with five fabulous women. . . 

The Red Hat Club is back, in rare form. When Pru Bonner, black sheep of the group, falls off the wagon so hard it shakes Diane, Linda, SuSu, Teeny, and Georgia’s world, “the girls” stage a hilarious kidnapping in Vegas to help their childhood friend clean up her act.

As the women confront their pasts along with their hazardous adventure, they discover surprising strength in themselves and their friendships. Laughter is spiced with secrets, surprises, and pitfalls aplenty, including a midlife pregnancy test, a fight for life, the perils of Internet dating, an all-expense-paid plastic surgery cruise, and a surprise celebration that proves it’s never too late for love.

As in The Red Hat Club, these irrepressible heroines face the challenges of friendship in sickness and in health, with heart and indomitable humor. So join the Red Hat Club and remember that age is all in your head, calories should always be in chewable form (Diet Coke with chocolate éclairs!), and that when all else fails, your Red Hat Club will see you through.

(This novel has not been authorized or endorsed by the Red Hat Society.)

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One of the nice things about being a goody two-shoes Buckhead housewife is that nobody would ever guess I’d commit a crime, much less kidnap anybody. I have the ultimate mommy face and “comfy” physique. All four of my best friends and I look like the respectable, middle-class, middle-aged women we are.

Okay, with the exception of SuSu till this year, but even she has gone respectable lately. 

I still can scarcely believe we pulled it off—a real Keystone Cops kidnapping, complete with security guards chasing me and a desperate getaway. The law and conscience aside, my mother—a true lady—brought me up better than that. 

But as SuSu always used to say (before she became a law student last fall),“Rules are made to be broken,” and boy, did we ever break them. We’re talking high crimes and misdemeanors. Not that we were strangers to the occasional well-intentioned misdemeanor, especially when it involved helping out one of our own.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. 

First, let me put this all in proper context.

If there’s to be any hope for higher civilization, some things in this life have to be held sacred, and for me and my four best friends (Teeny, SuSu, Linda, and Diane) it’s our second-Tuesday, monthly Red Hat luncheons at the Swan Coach House tearoom in Buckhead. The only acceptable excuses for absence are death, incarceration, or nonelective hospitalization.

Through all the triumphs and tragedies of more than three decades—including Junior League, potty training, wayward husbands, wayward children, menopause, aging parents, and the frightful resurrection of seventies clothing—our commitment to meeting monthly, for ourselves and one another, has kept us close. That, and the Twelve Sacred Traditions we’ve evolved since we were fellow Mademoiselle pledges from Northside, Westminster, Lovett, and Dykes high schools back in the sixties.

But the most amazing thing about our monthly luncheons is, no matter how well we know one another, there’s no telling what surprises are going to crop up over the Coach House’s white tablecloths and fresh centerpieces. 

Take last April. . . . 

Swan Coach House tearoom,Atlanta.April 8, 2003. 10:55 a.m.

As always, I got to the Swan Coach House Restaurant before the valet parking, so I saved myself a tip and pulled into a slot under a canopy of blooming dogwoods and towering, newly tasseled oaks across from the main entrance. Spring—a precious, unpredictable event in Atlanta—had come early this year, confusing the plants into a glorious, out-of-synch display that sent the pollen count soaring along with the spirits of the populace.

As I crossed to enter, I savored the warm air perfumed by narcissus and hyacinths. The clouds of oak and yellow pine pollen would come later, driving everyone inside and providing a bounty for car washes and sellers of antihistamines, but for now, the day was perfect.

Once inside the gift shop, I made my usual cursory circuit to see what was new since last month in the tempting array of gorgeous things. Fortunately for my budget, nothing sang to me, so I proceeded down the short flight of stairs to the restaurant foyer. 

Funny, how you fall into ruts without ever realizing it till they’re interrupted. I’ve always liked to get to our Red Hat luncheons first, before the tables fill and the floral padded walls rumble with a polite roar of female chatter and chairs scraping on the dark wood floors. Our regular waitress, Maria, always seats me at our usual banquette in the back corner and brings me fresh, no-cal hot lemonade right away, which I load with Sweet’N Low and sip slowly, taking advantage of the waiting quiet to shake off the mundane concerns of my life and focus on friendship.

But that morning when I entered the dining room from the bright yellow foyer, I saw that SuSu had already beaten me there for the third time in as many months—a total turnaround from her pathological lateness of the past two decades. I shook off a tiny stab of disappointment that I wouldn’t have my settling-in time.

She waved, looking like a just-ripe Lauren Bacall in a red cashmere beret and bulky black turtleneck sweater over slim black slacks. She’d finally gotten with the program about wearing a red hat a year ago, but the purple clothing thing was still a no-go.

Talk about a makeover. Gone were the brassy red hair and too-young clothes from SuSu’s bitter, wayward years following her divorce. With the help of Teeny’s generosity, she’d aced her LSAT, gotten into Emory Law School, and adopted a whole new, professional look. Classic to the core in her smooth, shining, dark-honey, chin-length hair and elegant wardrobe (most of which came from Teeny’s Perfect line of real-woman clothes) SuSu already looked like the domestic relations lawyer she would be when she graduated in another two years. Every time I saw her this way, it made my heart swell with pride for her.

As always, an aura of smoke-tainted perfume surrounded her. 

She’d reformed, but not completely.

“How’s school?” I asked.

We’d been busy praying all year for good grades, though SuSu had always been brilliantly book smart. It was just men she didn’t have a lick of sense about.

“Brutal,” she grumped. “And, Georgia, you’ll never guess what my study group did to me.”

 I knew it was major; she rarely called me by name.

 After all our years as friends, I fell instantly into the tried-and-true rhythm of our conversations. “No. What did your study group do to you?”

“They invited in a new guy without even asking me, then stuck me with him as a study partner for tort review,” she fumed. “Probably stuck me with him because he’s even older than I am. I guess the legal eaglets think it’s pretty funny, but I sure don’t.”

 The old SuSu would have cussed a blue streak next, but the new SuSu bottled that all up and minced out a tame, “I am so annoyed.”

 Maria arrived with warm mini muffins and took advantage of the break in conversation to ask me, “Excuse me, but would madam like the usual, or perhaps some fresh-brewed coff… –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


From Publishers Weekly:

Smith fans know that when 50-something females don red hats for lunch at Atlanta’s Swan Coach House tearoom, mayhem ensues. Club members Susu (wild divorcee now studying law), Teeny (abandoned woman turned corporate mogul), Diane (displaced wife now fashion designer), Linda (unflappable Jewish mother now in crisis), and Georgia (married narrator newly in love with her husband) unite to save old pal Pru from addition. Four of the five fly to Las Vegas, where they kidnap Pru from a casino with the help of a good-looking cowboy, and then the six reunite to help Pru confront her inner demons in rehab. They also help each other through personal and family challenges and the wrap everything up with a cosmetic surgery cruise. Talk about intervention. For all their mischief, these women on the verge of second adolescence retain core values of Southern womanhood: goodness, graciousness and grandchildren. With flashbacks to their younger days and the ladies’ not-so-strict adherence to 12 Sacred Traditions (“No Lies,” “No ‘I Told You So’s,’”, etc.), the book’s fun lies not in guessing how things out but in Smith’s warm, chatty style and images of “mommy-faced” women prancing about on an ocean liner wearing nothing but high heels, sunglasses and, of course, red hats. Though attempts at hilarity can be hit and miss, and outrageous scenarios and easy solutions strain credibility, well, it’s hard to keep good women down, as The Red Hat Club’s bestseller status proves. (Mar.)

From Booklist:

If you think all Red Hat Club members are sweet old ladies with a penchant for purple frocks and crimson chapeaus, think again. Smith’s bunch of Buckhead babes–Georgia, Diane, Linda, SuSu, and Teeny–may all be women of a “certain age,” but that doesn’t mean they have to act like it. They’re feisty, and sexy, and loyal to a fault, so when there’s trouble within the group, they rally like the Three Musketeers on steroids. Of course, it helps when one of the members is a multimillionaire, able to spare no expense when it comes to problem solving. And if that means firing up the corporate jet to launch a drug intervention in Vegas, or booking an ocean liner for a monthlong plastic surgery cruise, then that’s what the Red Hats do. If you’re willing to suspend disbelief and go along for the joy ride, then hitting the road with Smith’s lovable ladies is a riotous, raucous, roller-coaster adventure. Carol Haggas

Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Library Journal–March 1, 2005

SMITH, HAYWOOD. The Red Hat Club Rides Again. St. Martin’s. Mar. 2005. c.336p. ISBN 0-312-31691-7. $24.95. For three decades, no matter what, the Red Hat Club has met for their monthly luncheon. They religiously adhere to the Twelve Traditions, but each of these fiftysomething Southern belles is delightfully unique. In this sequel to The Red Hat Club, Smith’s intrepid ladies are a bit older, but even drug addiction, alcoholism, cancer, and a pregnancy scare hasn’t destroyed Georgia, Teeny, SuSu, Linda, Diane, and Pru’s spirit. Now they’re ready for their next group project: a mock kidnapping in Las Vegas, where they check Pru into drug rehab. Engaging flashbacks help tell this charming story. Readers who enjoy friendship-themed books, such as Rebecca Wells’s Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, will definitely go for this, too. A welcome addition to libraries of all sizes. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 12/04.]-Shelley Mosley, Glendale Community Coll. Lib. Media Ctr., AZ

“An engaging ode to the lasting bonds of southern sisterhood and life-begins-at-50 optimism.”

– Kirkus Reviews

“[I]t’s hard to keep good women down, as The Red Hat Club’s bestseller status proves.”

– Publishers Weekly


3 thoughts on “The Red Hat Club Rides Again

  1. I was wondering the same thing about SuSu! I read Wedding Belles first, not realizing its series and when I started Red Hats, I was a bit confused. What happened to her???

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