Southern Scribe
   our culture of storytelling


Fiction Review  

Eating the Cheshire Cat
By Helen Ellis
Scribner Paperback Fiction, 2001
ISBN:  0-684-86441-X


In her debut novel, Helen Ellis captures the southern mystic of mother-daughter relationships, Greek sisterhood, and freak shows.  Eating the Cheshire Cat follows the lives of three Alabama girls who are destined to collide in a memorable climax. 

Sarina Summers lives on Cheshire Way in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  She is a classic beauty except for her crooked pinkies that her mother fixes at her sixteenth birthday party.  Sarina is a pro at manipulation and will go to all extremes to win.  

Nicole Hicks is Sarina’s next door neighbor and best friend.  She will do anything to stay in Sarina’s good graces – from making herself ugly for a double date to failing a grade.  Her obsession with Sarina and her own mother’s pushing causes Nicole to cross into madness.  In fact, Nicole admits to being crazy.   

Bitty Jack Carlson is a poor girl whose family works at a summer camp.  When Bitty’s father catches Sarina doing an unnatural act with a blow dryer, Sarina claims that Bitty’s father is a pervert.  From that moment on, Bitty Jack and Sarina are enemies.   

Men are under the spell of these steel magnolias.  Sarina uses them for her pleasure, then dismisses them.  She does meet her match with her fiancée, who gives as good as he gets.  

At the freak show, Bitty falls for the Johnny Iguana, who would love to slither into the sunset with her.   But college calls, and Bitty becomes the girlfriend of Big Al – Alabama’s elephant mascot.  There is one drawback in this relationship, Big Al used to be Sarina’s boyfriend and was the one chosen to take her cherry. 

Eating the Cheshire Cat will bring the belly laughs out at very dark situations.   From the rush parties to the homecoming game, Ellis zeros in on southern gothic themes and hits a bulls eye.  

Joyce Dixon
Southern Scribe Reviews