Chapter 34 - Low Country Summer
As I write this we are waiting for a tropical storm to arrive. This morning was extremely hot and humid as Boh and I went for a park walk (high tide at the beach). As I walked I thought about all the books I know that take place in the South where location and climate can be their own characters. Certainly COVID-19 has made us short-tempered and, in many cases, stationary but there is nothing like a hot and humid day or week that creates ill tempered people and dirty deeds.
Here are some books where the hot and humid environment plays a role in the telling of the story.
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward - A study of three generations in a black/bi-racial family as the youngest, JoJo tries to find his way through his damaged family. A magical realism book of love and second chances, the book was a National Book Award winner. The spooky atmosphere will bring you right down to the South.
Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison - Another National Book Award winner, Allison has done an amazing job of telling a story of poor whites in the South. The story is about Ruth Anne Boatwright, a bastard child who observes the world around her with a cold and realistic perspective. When her stepfather becomes increasingly violent towards her, it tests the love and loyalty of her family. This is a gritty, not pretty, southern story.
The Education of Dixie Dupree by Donna Everhart - This is another gritty southern story by a wonderful author I have had the great fortune to meet. Dixie Dupree's world is very small consisting of her northern mother and her southern father. Living in Alabama with her father's family around her, she tries to stay away from her mother's wicked backhand. When Dixie's father dies, Dixie's life changes in ways she couldn't ever guess.
The Dry Grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew - It is 1954 and the Watts family is leaving for its annual vacation to Florida. Jubie Watts, a thirteen year old girl and the teller of the story describes the world of segregation which she sees and its impact on her family and the woman she loves. This is another hot, gritty, southern read.
The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy - Conroy was a brilliant writer but so hard to read at times, not because of style but because of content. The Prince of Tides, a family saga of 40 years, is the story of Tom Wingo and his twin sister, Savannah, as they struggle to triumph over their family's dark and secret legacy.
Do you have any favorite "gritty" southern stories? Let me know.