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Family Gems is set in 1976 and 1977.  It consists of the written correspondence (including family recipes and small-town newspaper columns) between two middle-aged sisters, Jewell Mattingly Garrett of Buck Creek, Kentucky, and Ruby JaNelle Mattingly Clarkson of Falstaff, Arizona. 

Through their letters, other characters come alive:  their siblings--level-headed and loving brother Garnett Greene Mattingly and drug-and-alcohol-addicted, widowed sister Opal Ovada Mattingly Skaggs; their spouses, children, grandchildren, and other extended family members. 

Many other eccentric characters from the community of Buck Creek, Kentucky also appear such as Teensie and Weensie Bottoms, fraternal twin sisters who co-own and operate the local beauty salon, along with Mr. Jerry Combs, a cross-dressing, homosexual hair dresser who rents a booth in the shop. 

During the course of their correspondence, a lifetime of family secrets--including one son's coming out and one daughter's interracial romance and unplanned pregnancy--are revealed and reviewed, always with compassion and with humor, both warmhearted and wicked.

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