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When Joey and Mary Alice first arrive in town, they hear a lot about Effie Wilcox from Grandma Dowdel, who seems to dislike the woman and disapproves of her rampant gossiping. And it's true—Effie is indeed a gossip and inserts herself into everyone's business. But just because Grandma Dowdel is annoyed by Effie doesn't mean that she hates her.
In fact, she goes out of her way to help Effie whenever something goes awry. When the Cowgills blow up Effie's outhouse, she makes it her mission to get them in trouble. And when Effie has to move away because she loses her house, Grandma Dowdel is definitely sad.
Joey doesn't pick up on it, but Mary Alice does:
"She's Grandma's worst enemy. She says Mrs. Wilcox's tongue is attached in the middle and flaps at both ends. The town'll be quieter without her, and Grandma will like that."
"You don't know anything," Mary Alice said. "Men don't have any idea about women." (6.11-12)
Mary Alice tells Joey what's what, and she explains to him (probably with plenty of eye rolling) that he doesn't get Grandma Dowdel's relationship with Mrs. Wilcox at all.
Even though she and Grandma Dowdel don't always see eye to eye on things, Effie Wilcox still remains one of Grandma Dowdel's best friends. After all, they have a lot of history. And in the end, she returns to the town after Grandma Dowdel negotiates with the bank to get her house back…and they can resume their old lady bickering as usual.