Vera “Nick” Nicholson is a lawyer, not a repo person. And yet, her bosses at the law firm Turner, Witherspoon, Anders, and Tyler (yup, TWAT), want her to track down a very expensive car that’s been stolen from one of their high-profile clients—without involving the police. Nick knows she’s been asked because she’s a person of colour (biracial, Black and Guatemalan), and what’s a day for her in Winston-Salem without a little casual racism? As a transplant from Philly, Nick doesn’t have whatever connections her jackass bosses think she might, so she calls up the National Recovery Bureau for a little help.
When TWAT lets Nick go so they can replace her with someone fresh out of law school, she needs to find a job quick to help pay off her student loans. As luck would have it, the NRB has a job for Nick and they want her to do it with Frankie, a cute Jennifer Aniston lookalike who does repo jobs to make up for the low salary she gets as a third-grade teacher.
The first job goes well, so they keep getting more right from the big boss himself, Fast Eddie. The jobs get progressively weirder, but the company couldn’t be better. Nick and Frankie just have to keep themselves from getting caught or shot, if they want their happily ever after.
The whole story is told in the first person, from Nick’s perspective. She’s a transplant to the area instead of a North Carolina native and her bewilderment at some of what she sees and hears was very easy to identify with. I appreciated that while The Big Tow is a love letter to the South, it’s gentle with readers like me who don’t know the culture of that part of the United States, with Nick guiding us all the way.
Because she’s a woman of colour, we also see Nick experience racism in a few ways. I already mentioned that her bosses choose her to find a stolen car. She also gets followed around a store for no other reason than the colour of her skin. A lot of how she’s treated seems to be because she’s perceived as Black, but her mother’s Guatemalan culture is also a big part of Nick’s character. We especially see this come out in some of her superstitions, including her belief that she’s cursed by el cadejo.
Frankie is freaking adorable. She’s outgoing and emotionally mature, so I never minded that we don’t get her perspective, because she tells Nick what she’s thinking or feeling at any given turn. Also, the fact that her mom is a hair stylist and her dad is a mortician? I don’t know why, but that struck me as hilarious.
The Writing Style
The Big Tow looks like a simple book, and yet…
It’s definitely a romcom, with both the romance and the comedy side of things working equally well. The situations Frankie and Nick are put into are so zany that the story feels like a modern take on the screwball comedy, but in fiction and not film. That said, we’re also reminded at times that Nick and Frankie are living in this world, with all its troubles. For example, Frankie enlists Nick one morning with packing brown-bag meals, since she knows some of her students will go hungry at night otherwise. This gives The Big Tow more depth than I’m used to when reading romcoms, which I very much appreciated.
My Favourite Parts
More than anything, I love how much heart The Big Tow has. It might poke a little fun at the South and some of its quirky people, but it only ever does so from a place of love.
Readers like to know whether books are #OwnVoices or not. From a sexuality perspective, The Big Tow is. From a racial perspective, it’s not, and this is a bigger deal with this book because everything is told in the first person from Nick’s perspective. As a white Canadian, I can’t speak to the representation and whether it’s solid or if there are any problematic parts. It left me frequently wondering and each time I was pulled out of the story. It might not do that to you, so do what feels right for you in choosing to pick this up or not.
The world is a hard place to live in right now because *gestures wildly at everything,* so much so that I’ve had a hard time sticking with any one book. The Big Tow was my slump buster, drawing me in with the humour and keeping me there with the heart. It distracted me and I’m grateful because that is exactly what I need right now.
Excerpt from The Big Tow by Ann McMan
“Can you go any faster?” I asked with urgency. The men had caught up with us and were pounding their fists on the side of the bus. “They might have guns.”
“Will you relax?” Frankie was busy working her way through the lower gears. “They don’t have guns.”
“What makes you so sure?”
“Because state law forbids carrying weapons on school campuses.”
“Are you crazy? Did you get a look at these dudes?” I ran to the back door and watched as the men peeled off and made their way toward the row of buses. “I think they’re getting into one of the buses,” I hollered. I watched their progress with horror before running back toward the front. “They are! They’re going to follow us. Besides, aren’t we supposed to stand down if the owners raise objections?”
“These guys aren’t the owners. They don’t know we’re repossessing this thing. They think we’re stealing it.” Frankie watched me in the giant rearview mirror. “Will you please sit down and stop running up and down the aisle? It’s dangerous.”
“Didn’t you hear me? They’re chasing us!” I ran toward the back again.
“Yes,” she replied calmly. “I think the entire county heard you. Now please take a seat.”
“Frankie! They’re coming after us in another bus.”
“Seriously?” Frankie met my eyes in the mirror. “In another bus?”
“Yes, yes . . . in another bus. Can you please go faster?” Frankie made the turn onto the main road at about the rate molasses flowed in January.
There were two loud reports. Something dinged off a nearby metal signpost.
“Sweet mother of pearl!” I screamed. “They’re shooting at us! They have guns! Step on it, Frankie—now!”
“I am driving as fast as permitted.” Frankie stole another look in the mirror. “Besides, they’ll never catch us. It looks like they’re in a short bus.”
Short bus? I let that one go. I stared at her. “Permitted? Permitted by what?”
“The law. This is a school bus, remember?”
“Frankie—did you not hear those bangs? They fucking shot at us.”
“I am not breaking the law, Nick.” Frankie ground the gears. “Not for you. Not for the NRB. Not for anyone. I’d lose my license.”
I anxiously looked out the rear window. The beefy Republicans were gaining on us. I sank down onto a seat and looked back and forth between them and Frankie.
I just know I’m gonna start having black and yellow nightmares . . . .
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Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 9781612941837
- Publisher: Bywater Books
- Ann McMan Online
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