Under Magnolia by Frances Mayes

Frances Mayes inspired my heart with Under the Tuscan Sun. When I saw that she was coming out with a book about returning to her roots in the South, I was excited to read it. She and her husband bought and restored an old house in North Carolina. The book did not go through that journey so much as her reconciling with her roots. 

The book was not what I expected at all. It was melancholy, full of raw moments. It reminded me of Maya Angelou's autobiography. You get punched in the gut with pain and then you see redemption in it. It is psychologically fascinating to see where the woman who wrote Under the Tuscan Sun hailed from. It gives such understanding to what she traversed in life to arrive depressed and divorced at a villa in Tuscany. 

This is the story of her growing up in the South with an extremely dysfunctional family. We follow Frances through the death of her father, grand father, and later her mother. Then we follow her to an all girl college. The things of the day were strange and fascinating. In one chapter she tells about how the college lined them up naked to check their posture. They were photographed as well. Of course, you know those photographs were stolen by a neighboring college for young men. 

There is this this level that we can connect on when we share our stories in such an honest way. Frances is gifted at doing this. She draws you into her story by simply telling it. She doesn't try to cover anything up or moralize it. She simply tells us. It's powerful. We are free to glean from her hurt, embarrassment, and her joy what we will. We simply walk with her as she discovers the back story of what shaped her family. I think when we seek to understand people and where they hail from, it's easier to find forgiveness. We come to understand.

I truly enjoyed this book. The last few pages tore my heart out. After losing her mama, she tells us that she does not share the belief that she is in heaven. It is the same feeling that I had at the end of Eat, Pray, Love. All the beauty of the story and the searching seems to be void. After all of that, there is still no peace made with her maker.  May her story continue on to reconcile the rest.

This book was graciously provided for review by Random House Publishers.


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