It is a warm summer night on a rural road in North Carolina when two women are stranded on the side of a road with a flat tire. While bravely trying to change it, another woman comes along and offers to help. Once the car is repaired, the three of them take off. Even though two of them are running from something unspoken, while the third one also seems secretive and frightened. But what better bond can there be? The quirky trio continue on their journey–oh, and one of them is wearing a wedding dress.
This set up immediately grabbed my attention. We learn through dialogue that the first two, Lana and Tracee, have been best friends for a long time. The third woman, slightly older, is less forthcoming, except with the occasional pearls of wisdom that lend a certain aura to her.
Suddenly the car veers off and hits something. Unable to move it or restart it, they walk toward a building they see in the distance. An apparently abandoned building, where they seek shelter. But on the first morning, they discover that another resident looms nearby, albeit in a cage. A lion. Hence the name of the strange club: The Lion.
Meanwhile, their car has been towed to nearby Fairville, and a deal is struck up with the owner for auto repairs.
From here the story gets even more intriguing, and we meet a few more characters. Like the owner of the bar and a young man who works there. And somehow the women have convinced the man to let them work there, too, and the younger man finds them a room nearby.
As we watch the three of them bond through their need and their secrets, we also slowly view some of those dark corners of their minds. Lana is volatile with addiction issues; Tracee has been abandoned one too many times and is a kleptomaniac; and Rita is running from a tyrannical husband who has persuaded her of her worthlessness for too many years.
How do the three of them begin to connect to this time and place? How does the lion, Marcel, play a huge role in what happens to them in the upcoming weeks? And how will everything seemingly come crashing down around them, forcing them to make untenable choices?
I have been a big fan of the author and her sisters over the years, and this quirky tale was no exception. At times I really did not like Lana or Tracee. Their immaturity and melodramatic acting out were annoying. But beneath this behavior lurked those secrets from the past. My favorite character, of course, was Rita, along with Marcel. They were a duo to be reckoned with. Themes of friendship, betrayal, and secrets loomed in The Lion is In, along with the unexpected and whimsical aspects. Four stars.