THE MOSTLY TRUE STORY OF TANNER & LOUSIE
By: Colleen Oakley
Published: March 28, 2023
I tend to like octogenarian stories, especially ones where the 80+-year-old is feisty. Maybe it is because I spent a lot of time with elderly people growing up and now my own parents are in that category. In fact, my mom is the exact age as Louise in this story. The other part of this story that caught my attention was a cross-country journey, another trope I love.
Tanner’s life is over, as far as she thinks. She lost her full-ride scholarship to Northwestern and her dream of playing professional soccer to a stupid accident. Now she spends her days hiding in the basement playing video games. Louise’s daughter believes she can no longer live alone after a slip on a rug and hires Tanner to be her aide, someone to take her to her appointments and be there in case Louise needs assistance. Let’s just say that neither Tanner nor Louise is thrilled with this idea, but Tanner doesn’t have a choice. After a blowup over a jar of pickles, she’s been kicked out and has to live with Louise.
Even after a few days together and numerous trips to physical therapy, the two still aren’t really getting along. Tanner’s about to jump ship when she sees a news story of a wanted criminal with age progression who looks suspiciously like Louise. Tanner starts to put a few things together….the locked nightstand, the weird phone calls, the gun, and starts to wonder what is really going on with Louise.
That night, Tanner is woken at 1 AM by Louise with a packed bag and a new adventure ahead of them if Tanner is willing to help. What else does Tanner have to lose? What ensues is a cross-country adventure of a lifetime that brings Tanner and Louise closer and reveals years of buried secrets that even Louise’s family won’t be able to imagine.
“Sometimes it just feels like we still spend so much time trying to teach the house not to catch on fire, instead of teaching the arsonist not to light it.”Colleen Oakley, THE MOSTLY TRUE STORY OF TANNER & LOUISE
I’m embarrassed to say I am mostly unfamiliar with Oakley’s writing. Her most recent novel THE INVISIBLE HUSBAND OF FRICK ISLAND published in 2021 is the only one of her books I had at least heard of. But, I will be watching for her now. She is a character novelist and draws you into the story by making you care about the characters. Neither Tanner nor Louise was especially likable in the beginning. They both treated their family members quite horribly and were generally not very nice people. They also were pretty rude to each other. But, I knew there was more to each character because of the way Oakley told the story, building the reader up to this exciting cross-country adventure with a surprise ending I didn’t see coming.
The side characters including Louise’s children who meet to discuss the sudden disappearance of their mom, the FBI agent who just wants to break this cold case, and the neighbor, August who Tanner can’t seem to stop thinking about also add a lot of fun dimension to the story. I loved the chapters that gave us a peek into the texts between Louise’s children and their interviews with the FBI. I loved the different roles each of her children took from the worrier to the nonchalant to the practical. Pretty much exactly how my siblings would be divided up.
This journey that took Tanner and Louise across the country was also a personal journey where each one was able to take a step back and right a wrong or realize a mistake or two that was made in their past. They also found that they actually liked each other and their friendship had value. I highly recommend this funny, lighthearted story that will touch your heart and surprise you, and maybe inspire you to take a road trip with an octogenarian you love. I would love to see this adapted for a movie!
Colleen Oakley is a USA Today bestselling author and has received numerous accolades for her novels. She is also a former magazine editor and graduate of the Unversity of Geogia’s school of journalism. Colleen currently lives in Atlanta with her husband, four kids, and a terrier mutt named Baxter. For more information, check out her website, HERE.