Bookworm: ‘Tanner & Louise’ – you’ll cruise right through it

Terri Schlichenmeyer

“The Mostly True Story of Tanner & Louise”

  • By Colleen Oakley
  • c. 2023, Berkley
  • $27, 352 pages

Your cruise control is all set. The sun is shining, not a cloud in the sky and the roads are smooth, you’ve packed snacks, you have a few goofy side-stops in mind, a couple restaurants you want to try, and no timeline to meet. It’s a great day for a road trip as long, as in the new novel “The Mostly True Story of Tanner & Louise” by Colleen Oakley, as the cops don’t catch you first.

“The Mostly True Story of Tanner & Louise” by Colleen Oakley.

Eighty-four-year-old Louise Wilt knew the letter would arrive someday and here it was, no return address. She knew who sent it, though; she would’ve recognized George’s handwriting anywhere, although it’d been decades since she’d heard from George.

She burned the envelope before she even bothered to open it.

A letter from George was not good, and it made her think about her life. It’d been a satisfying one with Ken and the kids, but Ken was dead and the kids were grown. Louise had no regrets except Parkinson’s and a busted hip, but aches were a part of getting old.

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Truthfully, though, hearing from George was the last thing she needed in her life.

Check that – it was second-last. The last was an impudent twenty-one-year-old.

Louise’s children had decided that she needed a caretaker and one of her daughters hired a friend’s daughter, who needed a place to stay. The girl, Tanner, would lodge in Louise’s guest room and drive her to her appointments, all for $100 a week.

It was mutual dislike from the first moment they met.

Louise thought Tanner was disrespectful. Tanner, who was mourning a future destroyed by a stupid accident, thought Louise smelled like an old lady. If she hadn’t needed a place to stay and $10,000, she never would’ve taken the job.

Still, driving Miss Louise wasn’t hard work until Louise told Tanner a story.

With police sirens nearing their rain-soaked street and George in trouble on the other side of the country, Louise revealed to Tanner three things: a mint-green classic Jaguar, a sordid past, and one demand. Run.

One look at the cover of “The Mostly True Story of Tanner & Louise” may put you in mind of a certain 1991 movie. Surely, if the cover doesn’t, the title might.

But this book isn’t one bit like that movie.

Think of this novel as more of a buddy-movie-rom-com-drama-jewel-heist-caper that author Colleen Oakley has mixed all together between two covers, tossed with two protagonists that are likable but very unlikely. One’s a smart, sardonic, cantankerous elder and the other’s an attitudinal but broken-hearted teen – which works so slickly that, mid-book, you won’t be able to imagine a better pairing. It works, too, because of a whopping sense of humor, clever plotting, and a couple of surprises that’ll have your mouth open and your eyebrows hovering around the top of your head.

If that sounds fun, you’re right, and “The Mostly True Story of Tanner & Louise” is easy to enter, too. Start it, and no problem – you’ll cruise right through it.

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The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books. Read past columns at