It's Time to Meet Maggie Mae!
The Tobacco Wives
I just finished The Tobacco Wives by Adele Myers and had a wonderful book discussion with the OIB Beach Girls Book Club (they graciously have allowed me to begin attending despite me not living at Ocean Isle Beach).
I loved this book for many reasons:
Although written to be an easy read, this novel lends itself to some really deep thought. What is right? What is wrong? How does one handle a gray area? What if something is wrong but pointing it out ruins not only your life and your family's life, but the lives of everyone in your town - even your state? Is it okay to push for some change without tackling the entire issue?
And then there was the whole idea of women's place in society in the 1940s - and how it compares to now. It has changed, but has it changed enough? If not, why - and what are you willing to do about it? If you think it has changed enough, then what do you say to women who don't agree?
In some ways, the book reminds me of An Enemy Like Me in that the main character is pitted against two opposing forces, both of which the main character loves. In An Enemy Like Me, it is Jacob's German heritage and his American patriotism. In The Tobacco Wives, it is the pride of being part of tobacco - the thing that is making NC great - and the understanding that tobacco is not only making NC great but making many seriously ill. How do the characters respond when they can't seem to have it all?
I love the character Maggie Mae. She is young and principled. She sees everything in black and white. Right is right. Wrong is wrong. But as she gets involved in the lives of the tobacco wives, she begins to see, reluctantly, that life isn't as simple as that.
I think you will applaud Maggie Mae - and eventually forgive Mitzy, the queen of Big Tobacco in Brightleaf. And I hope, you will ask yourself questions and try to determine what you would have done - in either woman's shoes.
It's Time to Meet Talmadge
The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin
The Orchardist was a slow and easy book that delved deeply into character development. I was amazed that even the conflicts were slow moving. In some instances, I wanted to read faster to finally "get to the point." However, in our world of rush, rush, rush, it can be nice to have a book that makes you practice mindfulness.
The Orchardist is Talmadge. He is a man of precision and exactness. He never hurries. He rarely gets rattled. In so many ways, the books pace was the pace kept by Talmadge. His life, though riddled with one challenge after the other, isn't very spectacular. Yet, in his ordinary doings, we begin to understand how deep his emotions go.
Della is the exact opposite. She seems to run headlong into trouble as fast as her two legs will carry her. And her challenges didn't temper her spirit. Instead, they drove it.
Finally, there is Angeline. A child who seems to possess the best of both Talmadge and Della. She knows when to be precise, and she knows when to be headstrong. She knows when to be quiet, and she knows when to make herself heard.
I enjoyed the interaction between these characters, as well as the many side relationships. Clee who never speaks, and Caroline who doesn't know how to keep quiet are Talmadge's best friends, though he would never use an expression like that. He rarely thinks in terms of best or least. They simply are.
I also learned a lot about orchards and growing fruit, and how things began to change with the coming of the railroad.
I would give this a 4 out of 5 stars, and for those who enjoy strong character-driven fiction and don't mind easing into a story, then this one might be for you.
It's Time to Meet Dela
The Woman in the Green Dress
The Woman in the Green Dress by Tea Cooper was quite enjoyable. I loved the dual timeline and was interested in reading a historical fiction set in WWI. Because of the dual timeline, there are two main characters. WWI Fleur and 1850s Della. I chose to focus on Della because I connected more with her character. Although I understood some of Fleur's angst, much of it felt overboard for me, making it difficult to form a bond.
Della, on the other hand, I loved. She is spirited. She is her own person. She works to understand the land she lives on and those native to the land - despite all the pressure to conform to society standards.
Just as importantly, I learned a lot about Australia, the native people, and the flora and fauna - but in a way that felt natural and not at all like a textbook. Finally, I learned why we have the saying, "Dressed to kill." (It has something to do with the color green!)
I would give this book a 4 out of 5 stars. If you read it (or have read it), let me know what you think!
Teri M Brown, author of An Enemy Like Me and Sunflowers Beneath the Snow connects readers with characters they'd love to invite to lunch.
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