I love Dolly Parton. Put Dolly Parton in a book, and I will read it. Seriously. Anyone looking at me would probably not guess how much I love Dolly Parton, because I’m pretty stereotypically Midwestern and middle-aged in my appearance. The last time I tried to add anything remotely glamorous to my wardrobe was probably about 1988, after getting back from a summer in Europe trying to see the Smiths in concert. (Unfortunately, one of the band members was having a bit of a drug problem and went into treatment, meaning I saw a lot of other late 1980s European favorites, but no Smiths.) Let’s just say I wore a lot of black then. During the brief period that followed, I might have tried to add some color to my wardrobe. Crazy!
Anyway, I’m not outwardly Dolly-like in any way, but I’m a fan. Why? Because every single time I’ve heard her talk to an interviewer, she is saying something positive about people who have struggled for one reason or another, mostly because they just didn’t fit into someone else’s picture of who they should be. (Also, she’s donated a lot of money for literacy programs, and that’s pretty awesome, too.)
So it’s easy to see how Dolly has become such an inspiration to Willowdean, who’s never quite lived up to her mother’s beauty pageant fantasy of who her daughter could be. Willowdean is overweight and awkward, and aware enough of how things work in her small town in Texas to understand that she’s never going to fit into the standard box of expectations set out for her.
She’s also losing her best friend and kind of obsessed with Private School Bo, who she works with at a fast-food restaurant. Entering the beauty pageant her mother’s so caught up in might not seem like the most obvious solution to any of Willowdean’s problems, but it’ll be life-changing in one way or another. And there will be Dolly, so it’ll have to be fun.