I have a quest! I am currently reading a book by an author from each state in the USA – and these are my selections for Georgia, my home state. A bookmark from the library and a book club selection helped me make my picks.
I picked up a bookmark at my local library that lists books Georgians should read. I chose A CLEAR VIEW of the SOUTHERN SKY by Mary Hood, partly because it included a forward by one of my favorite Georgian authors, Pat Conroy. He compared her writing to Alice Munro, George Eliot and Margaret Atwood.
“She blew into my life with hurricane force winds.”
“Indigenous, she is as much a part of that red clay soil as Vidalia onions, Stone Mountain, boiled peanuts, the Bulldog football team, or the burning of Atlanta.”
Well, the book did not disappoint. Consisting of nine short stories, it ends with a novella. How can you put down a book that starts with these words?
“Sometimes you just can’t kill the ones you need to.”
All the stories are about women, moving toward or away from something while searching for meaning and happiness. Within these stories, you will meet a Hispanic woman whose mission was to assassinate a mass murderer. We follow her into prison taking an English as a Second Language class as she looks honestly at her life.
There is also a kindergarten teacher who, when stunned by a student’s question, finds her true vocation. A widow befriends a young neighbor, while a woman trucker contemplates her true love as cell phone messages are sent from tower to tower. Two stories deal with one man and two women. The book ends with a novella “Seambusters” about a factory in rural Georgia where a diverse group of women sew camouflage uniforms for United States soldiers, discovering they are all part of a larger purpose.
What is the book about? It tells the relationship of Cole Bishop, the hero of the football team, and Marie, the caustic, but brilliant girl from the North.. Through her, Cole learns the unfairness of the “separate by equal” system prevalent in the South at this time. The two eventually collude to convince their classmates they are having a great romance. As the valedictorian of the graduating class, Marie gives a scathing speech to “the good white people of Overton County”. She warns them change is coming and they can not stop it.
After this, Marie heads to Harvard, while Cole goes to Atlanta where he writes for the local newspaper, Observing a civil rights protest, a sniper shoots a young black woman, and Cole catches her as she falls. The moment is captured in a photograph that appears in newspapers across the country. Because of this, Cole loses his job and moves to Vermont and becomes a college professor. Marie and Cole maintain a lifelong correspondence.
It ends with the fifty year reunion and shows the changes that have been made.
This is a beautifully written book – as are all book by Terry Kay. He has said
“My problem as a Southern writer is I didn’t grow up in a dysfunctional family, but I produced one.”
He believes writing is not his God given talent, his talent is for hearing and remembering. Other books I recommend by Terry Kay are:
I always end my “quest” blogs with some interesting facts about the state I have just visited. So – here are some facts about Georgia:
Georgia had four capitals before Atlanta became the capital in 1868.
Georgia is the largest producer of peanuts and pecans in the United States.
It is the largest state east of the Missisippi River.
Georgia wa the first state to charter a state supported university in 1785, when the University of Georgia as incorporated.
The Okefenokee Swamp in South Georgia is the largest freshwater swamp in North America.
Georgia was the first state to lower the legal voting age from 21 to 18 (1945)
Washington, Georgia was the first city to be named for George Washington in 1780.
There are two Nobel Peace Prizes on display in Atlanta, awarded to Jimmy Carter and Martin Luther King.
In Gainesville, known as the chicken capital of the world, it is illegal to eat chicken with a fork.
Berry College in Rome has the largest college campus in the world.
Other Georgia writers I want to give a shout out too – as I’m proud to be from such a literate state – are:
- Flannery O’Connor
- Joel Chandler Harris
- Carson McCullers
- Pat Conroy
- Erskine Caldwell
- Harry Crews
- James Dickey
- Anne Rivers Siddons
- Alice Walker
- Margaret Mitchell
So, next I will travel to the great state of Hawaii – or as we say in the south, and the framed quote I keep in my kitchen says