Louisiana native Tim Gautreaux is well known for his short stories. He's no slouch as a novelist either. I really enjoyed The Next Step in the Dance.
It was pretty weird that I was in the middle of reading this book when I saw the movie Sweet Home Alabama. There were similarities: the main female character left her small-town Southern home to make a success of herself, and in the process alienated her parents, relatives, friends and husband. In both cases, divorces were in the works. The movie disappointed me because (as in Grease, which annoyed me for the same reason) only one person had to change in the end to make the relationship work. In the movie, the husband works like crazy to better himself in order to get his wife back--and it works.
In the novel, the husband knows that no matter what he does, he can't make his wife come back. He lets her know he loves her; he sticks around; but ultimately he waits for her to come around, since she is the one who left. A chain of events that she sets in motion causes him to suffer incredibly, and she learns what love really means. Ultimately his suffering is not in vain.
Gaultreaux is a master of description and dialogue. The scenes of the story are wonderfully depicted. This book transports the reader to the world of L.A. as well as rural Louisiana, and does it well. Definitely, this is one I'll want to read again.