Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Charms For The Easy Life

This is chick-lit a la Fried Green Tomatoes or Secret Life of Bees. Very matriarchal and southern, the story is character driven although the natural progression of time throughout the story lends itself to a plot of sorts.

The narrator is the granddaughter of Charlie Kate who begins telling the story when her grandmother would have been dating her grandfather. Charlie Kate is one of those before-the-times, tough, natural healers who does what she wants when she wants. She follows her calling in life and begins her career as a healer who practices medicine in a rudimentary way without any formal training. When she saves a black man from a bungled lynching while traveling along a road, she receives a railroad watch, a tin of excellent snuff and an easy-life charm ( which was "the hind foot of a white graveyard rabbit caught at midnight, under the full moon, by a cross-eyed Negro woman who had been married seven times")as payment and thanks.

While nobody would look at her life as easy (her husband leaves her, she is constantly dealing with the poor, uneducated, neglected in her medical practice, her daughter ignores her advice and is trapped in a bad marriage) her no-nonsense view of life makes it seem pretty enjoyable. She loves her daughter and granddaughter but her big hang-up is that she doesn't trust men.

Margaret's, the granddaughter, and Sophia's, the daughter, stories progress as Margarets narration travels through time. I don't think Margaret gives us her name until the last few chapters. It's as if it isn't her story yet, and since she continues to only observe, we readers don't need it.

I liked this book quite a bit. I got a great feel for southern mystical medicine, the difference between classes and the feel for what it might have been like for southern women during an interesting time of history (up to World War II).

But mostly, I just liked Charlie Kate, Sophia and Margaret. Three great female characters in literature.

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