Funny, funny social satire of the South complete with Faulkner references! When I first brought this book home from the library, I wasn’t sure it would be worth the time commitment – more than 360 pages. But when I met Jerene Jarvis Johnston, the central character of the opening chapter, and her old money approach to the challenges and demons she encounters, I was hooked. The book is set in Charlotte, NC (my son lives there) and Jerene works for the Mint Museum which we have visited, so there was a point of personal connection for me. Then the book’s “Southern Discomfort” was highlighted in The New York Times Book Review on August 30. Although the alternating focus on individual characters in each chapter makes the job of piecing the family saga together the reader’s task, I enjoyed the wild ride through post-Civil War Southern politics, contemporary race and gender issues and even current campus Greek living debauchery. A holiday dinner scene in the middle of the novel includes so much physical comedy that I could see this book being adapted for the screen. On the page – three thumbs up from this reviewer!
The main character of this “coming of age at an early age” novel is eleven year old Fin, who is orphaned in the opening chapter of this touching and sweet story. Fin must go to live with his worldly, and much older half-sister, Lady who is indulgent, careless and living in Greenwich Village. In 1963, when the novel is set, Greenwich Village is a alien landscape for young boy used to rural Connecticut. Although he hasn’t seen Lady for a few years, Fin is lovingly embraced by her and her social circle which includes a revolving set of suitors. Like Auntie Mame, Lady opens Fin’s eye to both opulence and disappointment. The strength of this novel lies in its fully drawn complex and quirky characters.