Going home or returning to the place where one grows up evokes particular memories. In Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir, Frances Mayes takes her readers on a journey through her childhood in the South.
While on a book tour, Ms. Mayes finds herself in Oxford, Mississippi, and the lure of her roots pulls her back to the South; this time to Chapel Hill, North Carolina. There she is reminded of the memories and emotions of growing up in the South. Reminiscing about her past, Ms. Mayes portrays a vivid look at what it was like grown up in South, from her youth to college. Through her stories, she explores the changing landscape as it pertains to Civil Rights and Women’s issues. Her childhood was hard and she faced many struggles, including a drunken and abusive father, a slightly narcissistic mother, and older sisters with an eight-year age difference. Ms. Mayes was a family afterthought – the last hope for a boy. She is an opinionated and bright child with many eccentricities, which are often dismissed by her parents. Through stories, she tells of helping her father at the mill, her mother’s involvement at the bridge and garden clubs, the passing of her grandmother – who she is named after, her father’s premature death, and her mother’s relationship with a gin bottle thereafter.
For readers who have enjoyed other works by Ms. Mayes, this work will help them learn more about the author, her influences, and what helps make her a notable writer. The works provides an enjoyable account about what it was like growing up Southern. Little accounts of southern travel can be found in the book.
What makes Ms. Mayes’ recollection of growing up in the South stand out is the imagery she uses to evoke emotions. She describes many of her memories with such detail that readers are left with strong visuals of trees, wildlife, hot summer and homes. The beauty of Ms. Mayes writing makes the book read with ease.
Disclosure: A free copy of this book was given to the volunteer with the expectation that a fair and honest review would be written for it.