My Summer of Southern Discomfort by Stephanie Gayle
Publisher: William Morrow, 2007
After her relationship with her married boss turned sour, Harvard law graduate Natalie Goldberg finds herself working as a district attorney in Macon, Georgia, a far cry from her life as a corporate lawyer in New York . Her civil rights activist/lawyer father cannot fathom the sudden change in his daughter’s life, and Natalie’s friends are hard-pressed to understand the move. Now Natalie is forced with trying to find a place to just fit-in and find a community that she can call her own.
When I first began reading this book, two things popped into my head. 1: CHICK LIT and 2: Law Puns & cliché jokes. While those two elements are present in the book, I did find myself really enjoying the narrative and I did develop a sympathy for Natalie. Although the book had all the elements of being a cheesy chick-lit novel, Gayle managed to keep the attention focused on Natalie’s internal and mental growth in Georgia with her new surroundings and a new culture to adapt to. I like that the author didn’t stick the main character into any overtly obvious romantic situation as part of the healing process. I did find that the book had a lot of happy endings and all loose strings were neatly tied up in the end, but sometimes a book that cleans up nicely is a perfect read for a listless weekend.
I do have to say that the librarian in me loved Natalie’s organizational habits. The Birthday Card Tickler? Genius. Her packing methods of numbering each box and making individual lists for the contents of each box…also genius. I really liked Natalie’s character. I found her to be tough yet vulnerable, bratty yet humble. Confusing and erred like a normal human being. One thing that did strike me as odd was Natalie’s father’s reaction to her career choice. How a civil rights attorney is OK with his daughter working for corporate big-wigs, but abhors the idea of her putting away the bad guys just didn’t sit well with me.
This book was read as part of the Southern Belles Reading Challenge for September.
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Book 42 of 2011
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A Soft Place to Land by Susan Rebecca White
Location: Georgia, San Francisco
During a brief vacation visiting the Grand Canyon, Naomi and Phil Harrison board an airplane that soon crashes into the rocks, ending the lives of a couple defined by their never-ending, and passionate love for one another. During the funeral, their daughters, Ruthie and Julia are shocked by the provisions of the will that split the sisters from each other. Julia is sent to Virdin, Virginia to live with her birth father, while Ruther is sent to San Francisco to live with her aunt and uncle. The novel spans two decades, detailing the rift between the sisters as they learn to cope with their loss. The rift between the sisters is more than just the distance in miles between them. The rift also effects their emotional connection to one another.
The novel starts with the girls living in Atlanta, Georgia detailing what they believe were the last moments of their parents lives. In morbid detail they try to piece together what their parents last ate, said and felt before the plane crashed. Thick as thieves and overprotective of each other, the girls are inseparable and are shocked when they learn they are being torn apart due to the will. Although it had a slow and somewhat repetitive start, I really enjoyed this novel, especially once Ruthie relocated to San Francisco. I enjoyed all the references to the city and the Bay Area. I also loved witnessing Ruthie’s transformation into an adult during her teen years in San Francisco. The comparisons of life in the Bay Area versus life in Georgia and Virginia were really eye opening to just how snobbish the Bay Area can be. Being sent to live in rural Virginia with a negligent birth father and an “evil” stepmother did not help Julia learn to heal from her loss of not only her parents, but also from the separation of her sister. Ruthie, meanwhile, is sent to a thriving city filled with new experiences daily with an aunt and uncle that care the world for her.
One scene I particularly loved was Julia’s first visit to San Francisco. Known as the wild-child-older-sister during their time in Atlanta, you could really feel the rift between the sisters during Julia’s time in town. Much to Ruthie’s horror, Julia was ready to explore the Haight wearing torn jeans, a tie-dye shirt and sandals on a cold winter day. This day marked a rift in the sisters that would last well into their adulthood; past boyfriends, a stint in rehab, college and a published novel. The sisters accomplished much in their lives after the deaths of their parents and it was interesting how their lives overlapped at points, but then completely diverged at others.
Bay Area folk will love the references to San Francisco and Berkeley, and sisters will enjoy this novel for the hardships and struggles Ruthie and Julia overcame as they grew into adults.
A Soft Place to Land
by Susan Rebecca White
Simon & Schuster, 2010
Book 13 of 2011
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