There's a (Slight) Chance I Might Be Going to Hell: A Novel of Sewer Pipes, Pageant Queens, and Big Trouble

There's a (Slight) Chance I Might Be Going to Hell: A Novel of Sewer Pipes, Pageant Queens, and Big Trouble

by Laurie Notaro

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The first novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Idiot Girls’ Action-Adventure Club is a rollicking tale of small-town peculiarity, dark secrets, and one extraordinary beauty pageant.

When her husband is offered a post at a small university, Maye is only too happy to pack up and leave the relentless Phoenix heat for the lush green quietude of Spaulding, Washington. While she loves the odd little town, there is one thing she didn’t anticipate: just how heartbreaking it would be leaving her friends behind. And when you’re a childless thirtysomething freelance writer who works at home, making new friends can be quite a challenge.

After a series of false starts nearly gets her exiled from town, Maye decides that her last chance to connect with her new neighbors is to enter the annual Sewer Pipe Queen Pageant, a kooky but dead-serious local tradition open to contestants of all ages and genders. Aided by a deranged former pageant queen with one eyebrow, Maye doesn’t just make a splash, she uncovers a sinister mystery that has haunted the town for decades.

“[Laurie Notaro] may be the funniest writer in this solar system.”—The Miami Herald

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345500045
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/29/2007
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 9,609
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Laurie Notaro has been fired from seven jobs, laid off from three, and voluntarily liberated from one. Despite all that, she has managed to write a number of New York Times bestselling essay collections. She lives with her husband in Oregon, where—according to her mother, who refuses to visit—she sleeps in a trailer in the woods.

Read an Excerpt

SPRING, 1956

The moment the girl stepped onto the stage, the circle of a spotlight swung toward her, announcing her presence
above the audience in a sheer, clean illumination. The crowd before her suddenly quieted, as if expecting something truly spectacular to occur. It would have to be spectacular; after all, Mary Lou Winton, the contestant before her, had let loose a greased baby pig onstage, which she managed to lasso, hog-tie, and brand—with a branding iron fashioned to look like a sewer pipe, no less—in a definitive nine seconds flat. It was, in fact, confirmed by the audience, who counted down as Mary Lou whipped that rope and then stomped over to plunge the glowing iron. And it was further rumored that Ruth Watson was planning to bring her rifle out onto the stage and shoot every winged fowl right out of the sky, all in her evening gown attire, for her talent segment.

Farm antics, the girl scoffed to herself, wondering if such a thing really could be considered as a talent or just an episode of unfortunate breeding. She knew she could not let any of that concern her as she looked out over the crowd, searching the faces. She knew almost everyone—everyone who was waiting to hear her sing.

She smiled softly, an expression that seemed gentle. If only I had ruby slippers, she thought to herself. The light
that would have caught them would have been astounding, the sparkle would have bounced off of them like rockets, far more impressive than an oily piglet or dead birds. She looked down at her feet, at her pair of last year’s Sunday shoes—now buffed a bright cherry red by her father, who had been so proud when he surprised her with them—and saw that they did not sparkle, but produced a dull, minuscule shine.

Behind her, she heard Mrs. A. Melrose from the church choir begin playing the piano; this was her cue, and the pianist had better keep time. Although she considered herself a devoted Christian woman overflowing with generosity, Mrs. Melrose thought little of donating her time to the endeavor and suggested that instead she exchange her musical services for the girl’s scrubbing a week’s worth of the accompanist’s and her flatulent husband’s laundry. Despite the gruesome task that lay ahead in the Melroses’ wash bin the next day, the girl continued to smile as she drew a deep, full breath, so full that the replica blue gingham pinafore fashioned from a picnic tablecloth seemed to expand slightly, making the ketchup stains that stubbornly remained on the cloth look like she had encountered Ruth Watson’s rifle. She waited: one, two, three.

The next note was hers. She was ready.

“Somewheeeeere over the rainbow . . .”

Her voice glided sweetly over the stage into the audience and twirled in the air above them like magic. She could see it on the faces of the people watching her, listening to her, heads tilted slightly to the side, as they smiled back at her. This was no pig roping event, and no explosion of feathers was going to trickle down from the clouds.

This was talent.

I have it, she thought giddily to herself as she finished the first verse, as her voice continued on clear, strong, and with the right touch of delicacy. It is mine.

She saw him, standing in the back, far beyond the crowd assembled in the square—the most handsome man she had ever seen in real life, the one who could save her. With a bouquet spilling with flowers in the crook of his arm, he leaned up against his brand-new powder-blue Packard Caribbean convertible with its whitewall tires and gleaming, curvaceous chrome bumpers. It was a glorious machine. It suited him. Cars like that were rare in this town, and so were the men they suited. She saw him smiling at her, and to her he delivered a nod of encouragement.

She felt herself blush a shade. The surge of delight was just the push she needed to soar into the last verse and deliver with earnest, heartfelt yearning, “Why, oh, why can’t I?” The moment the last note evaporated into the air, the crowd burst forth with a shower of applause, the hands of the audience clapping heartily, and as she looked toward the back of the crowd, she saw that he was clapping, too, his arms full of tulips, roses, and lilies. Clapping for her.

Excitement raced up her spine like a block shooting up to hit the bell on a Hi Striker carnival game. It was hers, she had done it, she knew it, she owned it. She could actually feel the weight of the crown being placed on her
head, she could foresee the way that it would sparkle. She wanted it to sparkle brightly, feverishly, ferociously. Sparkle so bright it would blind them. Show this town that she was the queen of this scrap heap, this tiny little town with nothing in it but sewer pipes and waste. From this moment, it was all hers, all of it. If she wanted ruby slippers, she would get ruby slippers, not last year’s fake, cheap Sunday shoes painted red with a dirty rag. She was more than that.

It was hers, the crown, the town—she had won and she would take it. She knew it like she had never known anything else. As if there was any other choice! The pig tosser, the bird slayer? This was now her town, her kingdom.

To reign as she saw fit.

She smiled sweetly again, then closed her eyes slowly, laid her arm over her chest, holding her hand to her heart the way she had seen it done in the movies, and crossed one leg deeply behind the other in what could only be described as a true queenly and magnificent gesture.

And with that, she took a bow.

Customer Reviews

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There's a (Slight) Chance I Might Be Going to Hell: A Novel of Sewer Pipes, Pageant Queens, and Big Trouble 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 45 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am an on-again, off-again fan of this author's humor books, but her foray into fiction was very disappointing. The first 100 pages could've been cut, and there was clearly an over-emphasis of 'funny' scenes that did little to advance to plot. It was so ridiculous, I couldn't even finish the book.
lrobe190 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Following her academic husband to a new job in a small college town in Washington, Maye is confronted by the challenges of making new friends and, after a series of missteps, decides to enter the annual Sewer Pipe Queen pageant, a popular local tradition.This book was entertaining, but a little "over the top". The situations that Maye found herself in funny, but they weren't always believable. The author used a lot of similes and metaphors which slowed the pace somewhat. The resolution of the story was good and I didn't see it coming, but the very end of the book was a real let-down. I enjoyed it and had fun listening to it, but it's fairly forgettable.
pandorazboxx More than 1 year ago
First off, I am a huge fan of Laurie Notaro's writing. I am an Idiot Girl through and through! And she's great at what she does. I was a bit leery about her stint as a novelist though.

I read this book on a three hour flight and have to say that it was probably a poor choice. I could not contain my laughter and after about an hour all the passengers around me were not thrilled at my guffaws and snorts as i tried to keep the laughter in. This was one of her BEST publications yet. I can't wait to read more of her wit and sarcasm.
Anonymous 6 months ago
Entertaining, witty, and funny. I could completely relate to Maye. I loved her quips and found her to be a very lovable character.
bribre01 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
After reading a few of the reviews posted here, I was concerned that I was about to waste my time on an awful book. I bought this book because I thought it seemed like a funny, quick, read. Though the book was a bit far-fetched at times and quirky, I found it a pleastant, funny, and quick read that was nice after reading a few serious books. It's not a serious, five-stars type of book, but I still found it enjoyable.
quilted_kat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really wanted to like this book. It has a great title. I had heard that it was a zany trip through a beauty pageant based around the sewage pipe industry.I hated it.The main character was the stereotypical low-self-esteem housewife who spent the book trying to change her appearance and demeanor to fit in with her peers. This kind of writing is annoying in teen fiction, it is worse than grating in adult literature. The attempts at humour were all based on badly drawn stereotypes of culture, class, and gender roles. It includes such badly written anecdotes as the sound that thigh fat makes when it rubs together (like a cricket). This book could have been a Stepford Wives rip-off, if the Stepford Wives had included that the women were all incredibly stupid and the men didn¿t hatch any evil schemes.The book is not without merit; if you are looking for a piece of fluff for a book club full of uninspired housewives, this is it. At least the title is funny.
curvymommy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I absolutely love Laurie Notaro's non-fiction books, and had high hopes for her first novel. But, for me, while it was funny, it wasn't laugh-out-loud funny like her other books. It's a wacky story, but some of the characters were just TOO unbelievable, or TOO stereotypical. The plot was also predictable - it didn't take me long to figure out the "mystery", and I'm not usually the type of reader to pick up on plot clues. It's a fast read, and does have it's share of silly moments, but I'd recommend her other books over this one.
rcooper3589 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What a let down! I wasn't expecting some amazing novel- just something entertaining and fun. Unfortunately, this wasn't it. There's something lacking in this book- something I can't really put my finger on... I found Notaro's prose and storytelling very (very!) basic and high school-like. She tried to hard and explained too much- never letting the reader find out for him/herself nor letting anything stay a mystery. It was all way too predictable (and so done before!)- I mean I knew how the sweater, the fire and everything else was going to play out. And I really hated how things were explained more than once- and every time it was explained it was done as though it was the first time. I really did not like how Maye's husband, Charlie, treated her. It was as though she was a teenager and he her father. Notaro tried way too hard to be funny and witty- which rolled off onto Maye. I actually felt Maye was more on the mean and judgmental than anything else. Finally, I really hated the ending. What do you mean Ruby just disappears?!?! Talk about deus ex machina! Did Notaro not know what to do with Ruby!? Seriously?!!? Gah!FAVORITE QUOTES: It's all fun and games until a poet shows up and sucks the life out of everything in six seconds flat. // Maye had already qualified for the basic level of hell that consisted of trudging along on a treadmill with nothing on television but "The View" for all eternity.
ScrapEtta on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Maye finds herself moving from a big city like Phoenix to a small town called Spaulding. Everything in Spaulding is different-it's environmentally friendly, and she doesn't know anyone but her husband. She tries to make friends by joining her neighbor for tea, only to realize that she's one of the few who isn't on a motorized scooter. She then tries to join a gothic book club, and the results of that are hilarious. She ends up deciding to try to run for Queen of Spaulding, or Sewer Pipe Queen. What ensues is a sweet tale of friendship, with quite a bit of humor mixed in. I really enjoyed this book and I look forward to reading others by Notaro.
youthfulzombie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I had high hopes for this book, having read a positive magazine review - the overall hilarity I expected just wasn't there.
Librarianista1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
If you're a fan of Laurie Nataro you might be disappointed in this book. In reading this novel that reflects many of the experiences that she has written about in her past memoirs, you'll find yourself thinking, "this was funnier in the Flaming Tantrum book."
AuntJha on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A Very funny look at trying to make friends after moving to a new town more than 500 miles away from the close knit group of friends it took more than 30 years to assemble. I laughed so hard I cried. A must read for anyone who has been publicly embarrassed and forced to live it down.
WittyreaderLI on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Funny is the best word to describe any book by Laurie Notaro. I have to admit, when I heard she was writing fiction, I was wondering if she would be able to reach the high par of comedy that her memoirs have reached. But lucky for us fans, she has raised the bar and delivered a hilarious, yet interesting novel. Maye is new to Spaulding, Washington. She wants to just make a friend. Yet people won't even give her the time of day. She decides to enter the local sewer pipe queen pageant and hopefully, make a few friends in the process. Laurie delivers a book that is every bit as funny as her memoirs if not more funny.This was one of the best books I read this year!
Bbexlibris on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Here is the deal with this book, read it! It is fun, silly, quirky and sometimes obnoxious. I liked it because it was a great break between some of my classics, or heavy-hearted books that I will need to read to complete my challenges. Sometimes I just need a break, so I took apologies there.The basic premise of this book is as follows: Maye moves to a new city in Washington State (her hubby gets a job there) from Phoenix, she is very excited to get away from the heat and the crime but what she doesn't know is that Spaulding will be a hard town to crack. She tries a million ways to make a good friend, but her attempts always fail. She comes to the conclusion, that in order to be noticed she MUST enter the Sewer Pipe Pageant, and become the glorious queen of the entire city~! But, as she is trying to find her sponsor weird things begin to happen...and she winds up peering into Spaulding's deep, dark past...Well, you need to read the rest from there.A light, silly, interesting, predictable book, that is sometimes vulgar, manipulative and goofy...but just overall a very sweet, quick read. It is about how doing the right thing, leads to where you should want to follow.
agirlandherbooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm always wary when a non-fiction writer ventures into fiction, as the result isn't usually successful. Laurie Notaro carries on that tradition. While I'm glad I read it and enjoyed the laughs, Sewer Queen pales in comparison to Notaro's guffaw-inducing true tales.
Brookie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not as funny as her biographical short story collections but still pretty good and funny.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is funny and touching. Read it!
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JacobPDX More than 1 year ago
It's not my favorite Laurie book, but don't take that as a negative... totally worth reading and a hoot! I think my absolute favorite was "I love everyone and other atrocious lies". Love you Laurie!
SoniB76 More than 1 year ago
This book is hysterical and touching at the same time. I read it at a perfect time in my life. Loved it so much I ended up buying three copies, one for myself, one for my best friend, and one for my mom. LOVE love LOVE!
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