When does a lie become the truth?
17 Bookers met at the home of Joanna Linder to discuss this month’s selection, a simple little story with big powerful messages, chocked full of life lessons set in the year of our Nation’s Bicentennial in the small town of Mayville, Florida. In reverence to the novel, Beverly Dossett and Pat Faherty provided pecan tarts so our palates could experience the true flavor of a southern delicacy – the dessert and the book. All we needed was a front porch, a glass of sweet tea, and a cardboard fan to stifle the heat and humidity of summer and oh yeah the heat and humidity of summer!
In the author’s acknowledgements Ms. Selleck thanks the “wonderful women of the Mayo Woman’s Club” for “your warm friendship, constant support, and occasional kick in the behind…it’s a blessing to have people who believe in me and push me to sit down and write.” Sound like the PWC to me!
There were a few minor formatting issues throughout the book – chapters not beginning on a new page and sentences broken out of a line, an indication of some of the downfalls of self-publishing, but the story and characters stood tall on every page.
Pat Faherty, as always, succinctly let the story tell itself providing her overview of the novel with emphasis on the group discussion. Well done Pat and thank you for never hesitating to take on a project.
As the story begins, we meet the narrator, five foot three, ninety-eight pound Ora Lee Beckworth. She’s fifty-seven years old, a college graduate, a childless recent widow who lives in a two-story house on pecan tree-lined Main Street in small-town U.S.A. Blanche Lowery, in her employ, was as “black as pitch and twice as heavy,” also a widow, but raising five children and two grandchildren. When Blanche entered the world, she was as white as flour prompting her Daddy to say, “No baby of mine could be that pale,” fleeing the scene before her skin began to darken. “Miz” Beckworth took a keen interest in an aged homeless, skinny, toothless black man riding a bike as old as he looked with a sack of pecans tied to the handlebars. She hired the Pee Can man, or Eldred (Eddie) Mims to mow her yard and help with the gardening tossing the neighborhood into panic mode. Ora tried to reassure everyone Eddie was harmless, saying he’d “gum you to death, but he ain’t gonna bite.” Life turned on a dime on September 24th when Blanche’s youngest child, Grace, was raped by the son of the police chief. Blanche dealt with the situation by telling Grace it was just a bad dream, burying the truth deep within the folds of memory. This horror launched a cascade of events and tragedies soldering “Miz” Beckworth with Blanche Lowery and her family and sealed the fate of the Pee Can man.
At the conclusion of the one-hundred and fifty-five pages, mysteries are solved, secrets revealed, and “justice” served. We witnessed how ignorance drove fear, and how trust in human nature trumped all. We saw friendship transcending skin color and the ugly face of bigotry. We applauded when charity comes from the heart and not from someone’s expectations…as Ora realized, “It’s easy to feel benevolent when you’re wearing an apron and gloves over a Chanel suit and dishing out turkey and dressing to a long line of the least of these.” We understood the rationalization of paying a debt that you didn’t owe, and we’re reminded how a photograph can reattach long forgotten heartstrings and pondered if lying is ever the right thing to do.
We did miss MN, but our group stepped up to the plate in discussing the nuances of this novel. We spoke of the first chapter and how it grabbed you and held on tightly; how each of the characters were flawed, just like real people (wait a minute…do you mean Ora Lee, Blanche, and Eddie are not real…); how we don’t really know the everyday circumstances of those individuals in our employ, but they do know us; we shared personal insights into segregation and how it differed from one part of the country to the other; how culture dictates action and the importance of being genuine with all people; how disturbing that the black community doesn’t seem to support their own businesses, asking the question, why not; applause for those individuals that have the courage to step away from their stereotype, to break the mold instead of using an excuse; of being politically correct in our terminology for different races and how the divide is not just between race, but includes religion as well; we wondered if Grace’s downfall was shaped by the rape and the cover-up or was she following the hereditary path of addiction.
Daryl shared a true and a very poignant story of a group of young blacks on a missionary trip to Israel who played the “slave card,” refusing to do some of the work because their ancestors paid their dues so they didn’t have to do that kind of work. And, on a lighter note, Leslie told a story about the difference in pronunciation between Pee Can and Pecan noting their Texas friend identified a Pee Can as something you put on a boat with Pecan being the proper enunciation. Upon returning to New York, she ordered a Pecan pie at a local bakery and they looked at her as though she was speaking a foreign language…until she ordered a Pee Can pie!
On the business side:
Thank you to everyone who supported our donation to the Books in Bloom fundraiser as we’ll be sending a check for $60.00 to benefit the Henderson County Clint W. Murchison Memorial Library in the name of PWC Bookers.
Patty Evans suggested The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion, a romantic comedy about a socially inept professor of genetics who decides it’s time to find a wife in an orderly, evidence-based manner. We may find a spot for this on next year’s calendar as it is a very entertaining read. The sequel, The Rosie Effect, is in stores as well.
COLOR CODING SYSTEM
WHITE: LIGHT READ
PINK: MODERATELY CHALLENGING
April 14th: Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
Home of Kay Robinson
Reviewer: Jean Alexander
May 19th: The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
Home of Beverly Dossett
Reviewer: Beverly Dossett
Summer Break: June, July & August
The Boys in the Boat,
Nine Americans and Their
Epic Quest for Gold at the
1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown
September 8th: Bookers 12th year
“Southerners are mostly happy to give tit for tat.”