McAdams’ Apothecary & Luncheonette — affectionately known to Hot Springs locals as The MAL — occupies an old three-story building across from the Barstow Bath House on Hot Springs’ main street. The façade of McAdams’ has been well-preserved: It still has its original period details and charm. But the paint is peeling, the gold-leaf sign is missing a couple of letters, and a metal security gate is closed and locked across the plate glass windows and front door.
The McAdams Family includes:
Cora McAdams, the smartest girl in Hot Springs, ran as fast and as far as she could, marrying a romantic Parisian, having a child and settling down in France. But nearly 20 years later, her husband’s betrayal and her mother’s death, her alcoholic father’s illness and her feckless brother’s loss of the family business bring her back to town, assertively French teenage daughter in tow.
Still slim and gorgeous in her late thirties, Cora looks like the stylish, sophisticated French woman she’s been impersonating for her entire adulthood. But she sounds like the girl who grew up on Bathhouse Row in downtown Hot Springs, above the old wood-paneled pharmacy and luncheonette that’s been in her family for a hundred years. Hanging onto her Arkansas accent has always been a point of honor for Cora. She may have craved a more adventurous and cultured life than Hot Springs could offer, but she never wanted to deny the Southern girl she was at her core.
Cora’s mother ELEANOR was a strong-willed Yankee who was the driving force behind the café, which had been handed down through her husband’s family. She was also the one who kept her alcoholic husband functioning, who paid her trackie son’s gambling debts, and who encouraged Cora to grab a scholarship to Boston University, to take off for France on her junior year abroad, and to marry the French Moroccan man she met there.
Now, following her mother’s death and her own divorce, Cora is back in Hot Springs with her daughter Juliette, trying to pull the café, her family, and herself back together.
Read Cora’s side of the story.
Juliette is Cora’s determinedly French teenage daughter: gorgeous, sexy, stylish, as exotic as an alien in backwoods Hot Springs. Though Juliette, with her American mother and Moroccan father, never felt like a real Parisienne, now that she’s in Arkansas she refuses to speak anything but French and wears clothes that would look outrageous on the Boulevard Saint Germain. Juliette is upset that her parents have split up, but she’s much more upset that her mother has forced her to move to this nowhere town. Her aim: to cause so much trouble her mother will have no choice but to take her back to Paris.
Peek inside Juliette’s Secret Diary.
Read Juliette’s side of the story.
Cora’s younger brother is not at heart a bad guy. He’s sweet, and funny, and tries to be loving. But he’s got a weakness – or rather, several weaknesses. He loves to play the horses, and blows every penny on gambling. All his considerable intelligence is trained toward trying to beat the system at the track and strike it rich, which of course never happens. Jamie is also a drinker and a devoted pot smoker, though he’s never let himself descend into the world of hard drugs as his new girlfriend Taryn had done – though he feels himself slipping under Taryn’s negative influence. For a long time he held his ailing father and the family business together, but now he’s given up and taken off to a cabin in the woods with Taryn, and may be cooking and using meth himself.
James McAdams Sr. – called Senior by everyone in town – is the father of Cora and Jamie, descendant of one of the first settlers of Hot Springs. A pharmacist by profession, he took over the family drugstore and luncheonette from his father. Senior’s family once owned a lot of property in town and were political and economic forces to be reckoned with. But Senior, as the handsome, dashing, but spoiled oldest son, ran through much of the family’s holdings. A weakness for liquor and drugs, often swiped from the pharmacy, led him to be an ineffectual husband and father. But with first his wife’s help and then his son’s, he always held it together, parading down Bathhouse Row every day in his expensive clothing, like the dandy he was raised to be. Now, though, he’s descended into ruin, under the sway of the fortune teller Jimmie Sue Fallon, and it’s up to Cora to try to pull him and the business back together.