Author: Damon Wayans

Sometimes, you feel like you’re being stalked.

The woman two doors down keeps asking you to lunch or to join her after work or to check out her book club. You’ve politely (and not-so-politely) declined at least 10 times, and she keeps on asking. She’s nice and all that, but you have no intention of having a new best friend, and even if you did, it wouldn’t be her.

But hold up. Maybe that hand of friendship she’s extending could change your life. That’s what happened to Alma, and in the new book “Red Hats” (c. 2010, Atria Books, $19.99 / $27 Canada, 214 pages) by Damon Wayans, she didn’t want that, either.

How hard would it have been for Harold to do something right for once? Alma, his wife, remembered how wonderful things were, when they were first married and their romance was new. But lately, all he does is sleep, drink, and paw at her. Alma can’t stand it, and she wished Harold was dead.

But when his frail heart stopped, Alma was devastated.

She truly did love Harold, even though she complained about him all the time. Alma’s children–Teddy (who married a White woman Alma called “The Wet Dog”), Angel (who had a lout for a husband) and Jesse (a heroin addict)–tried to tell her that Harold knew how much she adored him, but it didn’t do any good. Alma became depressed and just wanted to be left alone.

If only that persistent woman, Delilah, would understand that. Delilah, or Dee to her friends, was a member of the Red Hat Society, and she kept asking Alma to join the group. Dee even bought Alma one of those stupid red hats, but Alma refused to wear it. She didn’t need a bunch of hat-wearing, purple-dressed, meddling women around.

But when disaster happened, Dee was the only person in the world who reached out to help Alma. She opened her home and her heart to Alma, who had no choice, really, but to put up with Dee’s loud-mouthed Red Hat friends. Dee even saved the red hat she bought for Alma in the hopes that Alma might wear it.

And Alma finally did-for an event that she never thought would happen …

For a first novel, this isn’t bad. It’s not good, either.

“Red Hats” is a five out of ten; it’s square in the middle. It’s a solid so-so with fine points and not-so-fine points.

Author Damon Wayans’ sense of comedy comes out in his excellent characterizations, especially that of Alma. She’s grumpy, sour, nasty, says what she thinks, and she made me laugh. By far, she’s the best part of this book.

Still, I got bored. “Red Hats” has too much going on; some of it goes nowhere and other plot lines labor for a long time before they tie up in an oh-so-convenient (and quite unbelievable) way.

Overall, I think this book is worth a look-see, but it probably won’t be the best thing you’ve ever read. Keep that in mind, and “Red Hats” won’t make you blue.