The Fixer-Upper was the first book I read and listened to by Mary Kay Andrews and it really exceeded my expectations. When the story began, narrator Isabel Keating introduces readers to its leading heroine, Dempsey Jo Killebrew. Living in DC, working as a lobbyist for a prominent and very influential man, Alex Hodder, Dempsey finds herself front and center in a political scandal that she swears she knows nothing about. Immediately, her entire life is thrown into total upheaval. She loses her job, her apartment and pretty much everything that identifies her in DC and to top it off, her boss won’t talk to her to even give her so much as a clue as to what it going on.
In Guthrie, Dempsey is met with surprise after surprise. First, to say the farm house is in disarray is a vast understatement; but before she can even enter Birdsong to assess the damages, she comes face to face with an old, cynical and very protective woman, currently living in Birdsong – and she wants nothing to do with Dempsey and she certainly doesn’t want her living in the house with her. Dempsey heads off to the lawyer’s office to find out just what’s going on where she learns that the woman is a distant cousin, Ella Kate who took care of Norbert during his last few years. She has got nothing but hate in her body for the Killebrews. With all bad news, there’s got to be something good – and it takes the form of a Mr. Carter T. Berryhill, or “T” for short. He is a gorgeous, young lawyer, working with his father, a local Guthrie man and the romantic tension that sparks between him and Dempsey is more than palpable. As if Dempsey didn’t already have a long road ahead and ample work cut out for her, the FBI trail her to the farm house in Guthrie and they aren’t leaving until she’s willing to talk to them. Will one too many distractions keep Dempsey from finishing her project or more importantly, rebuilding her life?
A beautifully narrated story, fast-paced and exciting with each passing minute, Isabel Keating kept listeners tuning into every word. She performed as the strong yet naïve Dempsey born and raised a city girl, and then masked her voice as the small town country old lady Ella Kate and then again transformed herself into the sweet, sultry and very southern gentleman Carter T Berryhill; The characters couldn’t have been more different in age, sex, ethnicity and culture and I was vastly impressed by Isabel Keating’s ability to alter the intonation of her voice over and over again in this story, from the bad guys in DC politics to those born in the south of Georgia-born to Dempsey’s California glam-hippie mother and her father’s Hispanic wife.