Eudora "Sweet pea" O'Brien was eight and her sister
sixteen, when their mother died. Sister fought to keep
custody of "Pea" and never let the younger child down.
Whenever their mother had a problem, the obvious answer was
to pack up the old car and skedaddle outta where ever they
were to someplace they had never been.
It was Pea's turn to take care of sister, and that didn't
work out well because Sister had no chance against the
rapid moving cancer. But, Sister celebrated the death to
come so she might have a "do over" -- along the lines of
being reincarnated. It takes Pea ten months to start her
search for Sister's do-over, but she sells everything
except a beat up old car and starts her journey to . .
Before being on the road very long Pea already has an
entourage of maybes. She found a new born kitten --
Sister? A young pregnant run-away -- Sister coming back as
a newborn? And, Pea literally runs over a good looking
con-man. Well, they all can't be sister.
While the reader is traveling with this delightful group of
misfits, the days will seem brighter, your funny bone more
susceptible, and you will more than likely keep a silly
grin plastered on your face. But, don't forget to have
the tissues nearby because this funny story is very
poignant with life's lessons being taught hourly. Mama
used to make up tales about the historical markers on Texas
highways and byways, and Pea continues this custom, much to
the amusement and sometimes irritation of her fellow
Jean Brashear has been a long time favorite of mine, but
THE GODDESS OF FRIED OKRA brings her skills and sense of
humor to a new and elevated level of pure entertainment.
And, just where does the title come from? Well, that is
another story, within this story, of course.
A grieving woman travels across Texas on a whimsical search
for her reincarnated sister, using oddball historical road
markers as a guide.
Nothing else could have put me on
the road again, not after eighteen years of being dragged
all over creation.
The road was Mama's perpetual escape clause for
boyfriends, bill collectors
or just boredom.
she used the road to save me.
those years, I swore up and down that once I was old
enough, I would
find a spot and no force on earth would budge me.
I didn't count on Sister.
gave up everything for me, see, and I owed her. She was
when Mama died; I was eight. Life could have been so much
on her if she'd let the social services people have me
like they wanted.
Instead, she even chased off her no-good daddy Alvin when
up saying he would take care of us. She understood
that what he really meant to do was lay on his sorry
get up long enough to take the child welfare money and buy
Sure as shooting, he would have let Sister do all the
Sister turned those spooky eyes on him—I can still see him
she had mojo.
she was gone, just shy of my twenty-ninth birthday, I lost
I knew of home. Ten months went by, endless hours and
no matter what I tried, I could not get comfortable in my
The hole in my heart was just too big to paste any more
If only I could see her, talk to her, I thought, maybe
would make sense again.
if she would forgive me.
of course she was dead, but Sister believed in
reincarnation, see, and
she took great comfort from the notion of a do-over. Me, I
quite say I shared her faith, but I was desperate. Sister
it in her mind that the first year was critical for finding
new body, and no matter how much I read on the topic—which
you I did, since a person cannot have too much information
I’d sooner read than breathe—I could not find one surefire
to say she was wrong. I couldn’t even locate any proof
souls always took up residence in babies. Some people
a person could have a near-death experience and awaken as
believed the soul could be an animal next time, or even a
I could find arguments about almost every dadgum thing,
on the actual process were pretty much non-existent. That
too many unknowns for a person like me, but if there was a
this world that she'd been right, I had to try to find
was whole when Sister lived; what I knew of family came
I needed that again. Needed her.
I was getting scared, real scared, that if I didn't
hurry, I would be
was when I turned to Madame Eva, Sister's favorite
wasn't sure what to expect on my way over, but I kinda
liked that little
stucco house with its turquoise door and purple shutters,
the riot of
zinnias and marigolds tumbling along the cracked sidewalk.
nervous, though, about going inside, wondering what all she
able to see in my head.
was nice to me, I have to admit. Took my hand real gentle,
if she spotted all the mistakes I'd made and the
misery, she was too
kind to say so. Instead, she told me if I opened my heart,
find my family, but when I asked where, she only smiled and
journey was up to me. That wasn't one bit what I
wanted to hear
from her, and I got too caught up in my disappointment and
you can bet that when she told me New Mexico might be in my
my ears perked right up. Sister always swore she was
from Pueblo Indians. Someday, Pea, she would tell
I'm going there to meet my people.
she said her people, not ours, 'cause we had
at least she had one. My daddy I called Casper, like the
Ghost, since he never came to visit. I don't think it
friendly, though, not to show up even once.
was short with brown eyes, like Mama and Alvin. My eyes
like Casper's. Sister said he was even taller than my
but without all this mess of red hair. I read somewhere
coloring meant I had Viking blood, and that was a comfort.
were strong and fierce, and I cottoned to the notion that I
maiden written all over me.
except for the maiden part.
also the muscles.
probably could have used some warrior skills when I set off
day that turned out to be only the beginning of my
chapter. All I owned in this world, once I’d gone a little
with grief and sold most everything we had, filled up the
spilled into the back seat of the beat-up sedan she and I
What I had left of Sister was a photograph and a tarnished
of Mama's that Sister treasured.
my last paycheck from the store, my grubstake was six-
dollars and eighty-three cents, which the hospital
would have dearly loved to snatch from me. But I had a
and I could not worry about the place that spit Sister out
on the sidewalk
and left her in the hands of the wrong person.
road, like a tongue-flicking serpent sidling up to Eve,
called to me.
Madame Eva said the stars were aligned, that Fate would
lead me home.
could only mean Sister. All I could hope was that my
good enough, even after all the loud rock and roll she and
I used to
dance to. I was desperate to hear when Fate would whisper
There she is, there's her new body.
I found her, as I hoped so hard I could, would she remember
me, I wondered,
or would I need to introduce myself? Would she give me a
to talk or just turn tail and run from me? Or what if she
a man this time? Boy, that would be rich, given that the
of my family had, at best, an uneasy relationship with the
male of the
it now, Pea, she would say if she were here right now.
real name is Eudora O’Brien, but Pea is for Sweetpea, the
gave me when I was a baby. You are frettin'
one of us didn't need to. I was good at it, and I
to get out of practice.
steering wheel about fried my hands when I grabbed it, but
I held on.
Started the engine and backed out of the stained driveway.
I was a little
scared to leave, but I had to.
propped Sister's picture—one where she looked young and
a way I'd never seen her—in the ashtray, and I pointed
the car northwest.
I decided I had best be alert; no telling where I might
along the way. There were a lot of unanswered questions, I
Still, despite the heat of the day and the ache in my
heart, I felt
hopeful, for a change.
on, Sister, I thought as I steered away. I'm
you, and when I do, I pinky-promise I will not let you
down, not ever