Three Times Lucky by Shelia Turnage – Advance Review

Book Jacket:

A hilarious Southern debut with the kind of characters you meet once in a lifetime

Rising sixth grader Miss Moses LoBeau lives in the small town of Tupelo Landing, NC, where everyone’s business is fair game and no secret is sacred. She washed ashore in a hurricane eleven years ago, and she’s been making waves ever since. Although Mo hopes someday to find her “upstream mother,” she’s found a home with the Colonel–a café owner with a forgotten past of his own–and Miss Lana, the fabulous café hostess. She will protect those she loves with every bit of her strong will and tough attitude. So when a lawman comes to town asking about a murder, Mo and her best friend, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, set out to uncover the truth in hopes of saving the only family Mo has ever known.

Full of wisdom, humor, and grit, this timeless yarn will melt the heart of even the sternest Yankee.


Oh my gosh, I loved it. If this book doesn’t charm your socks off, I don’t know what will.

Three Times Lucky is a hilariously wry, marvelously eccentric little mystery that overflows with pure southern charm. Now let’s face it, when it comes to southern-isms, nine times out of ten they fall flat, ring false, or just feel hokey and overblown, like the author is trying to muscle a y’all into place – but this book, this wonderful little gem, is definitely the exception. Turnage just nails it, dancing nimbly on the line of offbeat/colorful without crossing into caricature, and the drawl just rises off the page. But what really made me fall head over heels in love was how Turnage peppered her story with hilariously droll turns of phrase – she had me laughing out loud more than once.

“It’s not nuts, and you’re not doomed. You’re desperate, is all. And it’s like Miss Lana says: Desperation is the mother of invention.”

He looked at me, his face thoughtful. “Who’s the daddy?”

If Dale ever starts thinking in a straight line, he’ll be a genius.

I mean, how can you not fall in love with that voice? Mo is hilarious. Not to mention scrappy, spunky, and smart – and honey just drips off her tongue. From her choice of pajamas (karate pants) to her war with her snooty nemesis (Attila), Mo is downright impossible to resist. Oh she’s a character, this one.

We marched up the rounded steps, to the porch. “Didn’t you leave your night-light on, Soldier?” he asked, stopping by Miss Lana’s potted geranium.

I gulped. “I always leave my Elvis light on, sir.” I said. “It’s an eternal flame.”

But it’s not just Mo – top to bottom, the cast of characters in this book is spectacular. Turnage pretty much introduces us to the entire town, and never once did it feel like too much or too many – they were all so memorable, and each and every one was so wonderfully unintentionally hilarious. Turnage’s keen sense of the ridiculous meshes seamlessly with small town color, painting a larger than life portrait that still feels true. And I can’t remember the last time I read a book that so nailed the small-town sense of community, where everyone is all up in each other’s business and looking out for each other – the closest I can come is Fried Green Tomatoes, the movie. Let me put it this way, Tupelo Landing is a town that’ll make you want to put your feet up and stay awhile.

As for the mystery, it’s both rock solid and highly entertaining. Yes, some pieces of the puzzle do wing in from left field, but it’s all just so gosh-darn-fun – Mo’s sleuthing is a joy to behold, both silly and serious at the same time, and always perfectly pitched for her soon-to-be-6th-grade self. And everything you want to be answered, will be. So yes, across the board, I loved this book. It just wrapped me up like a hug.

Wry and heartwarming, cheeky and fun, Three Time Lucky will have you yearning for a porch rocker and glass of lemonade. This one’s special, y’all. Do yourself a favor and pick it up.

Byrt Grade: A+

As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…

Publishers Weekly (starred review) says:

Here is a writer who has never met a metaphor or simile she couldn’t put to good use. Miss Lana’s voice is “the color of sunlight in maple syrup,” while “[r]umors swirl around the Colonel like ink around an octopus.” But it’s Mo’s wry humor that makes this first novel completely memorable. “Boredom kills,” she suggests as Mr. Jesse’s cause of death. “I’ve had close brushes myself, during math.”

Kirkus Reviews (starred review) says:

Pairing the heartbreaking sadness of children who don’t get their fair share from parents with the hilarity of small-town life, Turnage achieves a wickedly awesome tale of an 11-year-old girl with more spirit and gumption than folks twice her age. Mo LoBeau is destined to become a standout character in children’s fiction.