There's no doubt that Iowa has lost one-time Corn Queen Janie Willow. Now a syndicated Los Angeles movie critic known for her acerbic reviews, she has put her Midwestern days behind her, which she refers to as "Before Jane." "After Jane" has one friend (by her own count) and is "ruled by doubt and cynicism." In The Lost Queen of Crocker County, Elizabeth Leiknes slowly reveals what marks "before" vs. "after" for her emotionally elusive protagonist.
Jane is planning a lavish visit for her parents, set to arrive from True City, Iowa. She notes she isn't "brave enough" to go home. Instead, she is immersed in movies, her reality defined by parallels to lines, plots and actors. But her parents' deaths in a plane crash demand her immediate return, and her loss and anxiety are agonizing. They were pillars of the community. (Literally. The grain silos were named for them.) And Janie was the most famous Corn Queen of all. What horror drove her to leave this loving town forever? As Janie-now-Jane navigates the memories, the profuse sympathy and the corn casseroles, a second tragedy leads to deeper sorrow. Eventually Jane faces her 20-year secret and begins a circuitous path to peace, and even joy.
Cinematic references and farm-country details embellish a fast-paced plot. Jane's basic goodness, credited to her wholesome Iowa upbringing, allows for suspension of disbelief as conflicts happily resolve. After all, as any citizen of True City would confirm, Jane's dad was always right when he said, "Believe so." --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco