Tag Archives: American South

Complete Stories

Title: The Complete Stories

Author: Flannery O’Connor

Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1971

Summary: When I travel, I like to read books written by authors from that part of the world. So, on a recent trip to Savannah, I finally picked up A Good Man is Hard to Find, a book that had been on my ‘to-read’ list for ages. That book is contained within this larger collection of all the O’Connor’s short stories. While her career was relatively short, Flannery O’Connor was a highly-regarded master of the Southern Gothic: the scenery is dripping with humidity and the haunted characters all struggle as they are forced to face the darkness in their twisted souls.

Some of the tales are downright terrifying and some, like The River and A Stroke of Good Fortune end in a shocking, unpredictable turn of events. Almost all have characters coming to a not-so-pleasant realization about their place in the world. These are not happy stories, but the writing is so mesmerizing that you will find yourself rereading each turn of phrase. Don’t wait as long as I did to pick up this American classic!

Who will like this book: Fans of short stories, regional fiction, and darker themes. People who like their books a little twisted.

If you like this, try this:Other great Southern Gothic authors include Truman Capote, Carson McCullers and Tennessee Williams. Flannery O’Connor: A Life by Jean W. Cash.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Garden Spells and The Lace Reader

Titles: Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen and The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

Summary: It was sheer coincidence that I read these two novels back to back, so I thought it would be nice to review them together.  The two stories have a lot in common and share many similar themes, but each one evokes a completely different (and wonderful!) reading experience.

Garden Spells is a delightful story about two half-sisters, Claire and Sydney, their magical garden, and life in the small town of Bascom, North Carolina.   The Waverly women have always had mysterious gifts, but they’ve not always embraced them.  Claire’s magic comes through the herbs and spices she uses from the famous Waverly garden, while Cousin Evanelle intuits exactly what item people will need the most and gives it to them.  Sydney spent most of her life running away from her gifts, but finds herself returning to Bascom with her daughter when her boyfriend becomes abusive.  As the bond between Claire and Sydney grows, so does their appreciation of their unusual talents.  This book was a pleasure to read, the perfect summer novel.

If Garden Spells is the perfect summer novel, then The Lace Reader is its perfect cold weather counterpart – it’s a bit darker, but still a fantastic read.  We meet another family with mystical powers, the Whitneys of Salem, Massachusetts.  The Whitney women can read your future in patterns of the Ipswich lace that they help to make, which leads some people to believe they are witches.  Towner Whitney thought she’d left all of that behind when she moved to California, but she’s called back home when her beloved Aunt Eva goes missing.  Her return to the family home sets off a series of events that are a more than a little unsettling.  There are some fascinating people and places in this novel.  I particularly loved reading about Salem and Yellow Dog Island, a fictional island of the coast of Massachusetts that’s inhabited by hundreds of wild Golden Retrievers.

By the way, The Lace Reader is one of the books that created a buzz at this year’s Book Expo America.  It’s being published in hardcover this month, but we happened to have a previously-published paperback edition on our shelves – and I’m so glad we did!

Who will like these books?:  Any fan of Alice Hoffman and Laura Esquivel.

If you like these try: Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman; The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen.

Recommended by: Mary, Reference Librarian

The Prince of Frogtown

Title: The Prince of Frogtown

Author: Rick Bragg

Summary: This is the final volume in Rick Bragg’s Americana Saga: All Over But the Shoutin’ and Ava’s Man. Bragg finishes his collection of family stories with a tale about fathers and sons inspired by his own relationship with his ten year-old stepson. Bragg has a great gift for descriptive storytelling.

Who will like this book?: All who enjoy a great memoir.

If you like this, try this: This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolfe. Liar’s Club by Mary Karr.

Recommended by: Cliff, Reference.

Soul Catcher

Title: Soul Catcher

Author: Michael White

Summary:Augustus Cain has a dependency on laudanum, a weakness for gambling, and a talent for slave catching. When he gambles and loses his favorite horse to a wealthy tobacco planter, the only way to get him back is to accept a job hunting down the man’s runaway slave.

This is the moving story of two people grudgingly joined together on what will become a life altering journey for both of them. Rosetta, the runaway slave determined to stay free no matter what the cost and Cain, the reluctant “soul catcher” hired to bring Rosetta back to captivity.

Michael White is an extraordinary writer who brings to life the exceptional, multi-dimentional characters in this story.

Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator


Title: Mudbound

Author: Hillary Jordan

Summary: Halfway into Hillary Jordan’s debut novel, Mudbound, I knew that she had earned a place on my “Must Read Authors” list. This is a wonderful, beautiful, brutal, tragic, richly painted novel that is worthy of all of its high praise.

It’s the Mississippi Delta in the 1940’s. The story opens as Henry and his brother Jamie are trying desperately to bury the body of a man, their father. Slowly, the reader is drawn into the lives of the six people who set in motion the events that lead to this man’s death. Laura and Henry McCallan are struggling with day-to-day life on a farm; Hap and Florence Jackson, the black sharecroppers who live and work on the McCallans’ farm, must deal with racism and the unforgiving conditions of the labor they face every day. Each family awaits the return of a war hero, and each family is brought to its knees as their wounded veterans come home and try to resume a “normal” life.

Before it was even published, Mudbound was the winner of a literary prize, the Bellwether Prize for Fiction. Barbara Kingsolver, the founder of the award, had this to say of Hillary Jordan: “her characters walked straight out of 1940’s Mississippi and into the part of my brain where sympathy and anger and love reside, leaving my heart racing. They are still with me.”

And they are still with me as well.

Recommended by: Mary, Reference Librarian