Book Review: 'Pretty Ugly'

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Kirker Butler. Thomas Dunne, 294 pp. $25.99

It probably goes without saying that a satirical novel about the child pageants written by one of the writers of "Family Guy," "The Cleveland Show" and "Galavant" would be pretty funny. And Kirker Butler's debut novel, "Pretty Ugly," definitely delivers.

Miranda Miller has been obsessed with pageants since she was 14 years old and her eyes saw the application for the "18th Annual Miss Daviess County Fair Pageant" when she ducked into the drugstore to pick up her mom's Klonopin refill.

She became Miss Daviess County for seven months -- she was named second runner-up but donned the tiara after the winner was found to have married her boyfriend and the first runner-up was arrested for felony production of crystal meth. She didn't care. Those seven glorious months were enough to decide that she wanted this life for her daughter.

Fast forward, and Miranda is a quintessential stage mother. Her 9-year-old, Bailey, is a successful pageant contestant and she's pregnant with another future star of the stage. Her entire world revolves around this world.

Unfortunately, she doesn't see that her life is crumbling around her. Bailey is so sick of the pageants that she's purposely overeating, hoping that if she gets fat enough her mom will pull her from the competitions. Miranda's mother is conspiring murder with Jesus, who she carries conversations with throughout the day. Her husband, who has been working nearly 24 hours a day to pay for the pageants, has begun a habit of popping whatever pills are close to him. Not knowing what the pill is, or the side effects it may have, are part of the game.

If this book wasn't so brilliantly written it would be a very sad story. But Butler's dialogue and first-person perspective almost drip with satire. I feel like I'm watching a TLC show just because it's on and I want to see the train wreck unfold.

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