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Charms for the Easy Life
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Charms for the Easy Life

4.01  ·  Rating Details  ·  9,964 Ratings  ·  710 Reviews
In her fourth novel, Gibbons again reveals the "perfect pitch" (Anne Tyler) and "good heart" (Valerie Sayers) that readers and reviewers have been cheering for six years. This heart-wrenching tale set amid the home front demands of the Second World War brims with the passions of three generations of willful, self-taught Southern women.

Margaret struggles toward adulthood in
Hardcover, 254 pages
Published March 24th 1993 by Putnam Adult (first published 1993)
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raheleh mansoor
Apr 25, 2007 raheleh mansoor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classicwonders
It's amazingly easy to read and grabs you right away. In fact, it feels so effortless (but it's the kind of writing that you know was slaved over, honed and perfected), that I questioned how I could have gotten quite so much from it.

Two lovely ideas from this book:

The grandmother, when she's young, gets this lucky charm, that's supposed to bring her an easy life. Her husband leaves her, tries to con her, she works as a doctor in the early 1900's when infection and poverty are rampant--but she i
Jan 03, 2009 Kristin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
After My Antonia and Here Be Dragons I wanted a light read...some chick-lit if you will. This book sounded intriguing. Set in North Carolina during WWII it tells the story of three generations of unconventional Southern women: Charlie Kate, Sophia her daughter, and Margaret her granddaughter...the narrator. Charlie Kate is a backwoods mid-wife/healer and the adventures/medical conditions that she encounters are unique to say the least. This is a book of strong women who depend on one another rat ...more
Dec 27, 2007 planetkimi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Charms for the Easy Life is a mesmerizing fictional biography/autobiography of three generations of women living unconventional lives in North Carolina against the backdrop of the World Wars.

The book revolves around the life of the narrator's grandmother, a self-taught healer who appears to lead a bit of a charmed life. Her life is not "charmed" in any sort of mystical sense, it's more like she is so self-possessed that a comparatively uncertain world bends itself to her will.

I enjoyed the glim
Will Byrnes
Oct 19, 2008 Will Byrnes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Charms is a family saga. The narrator, Margaret Birch tells of her mother, Sophia, her grandmother, Charlie Kate, her no-good father, her failed grandfather and a broad cast of characters that inhabit the southern towns of her upbringing. It oozes warmth. I was reminded of A Secret Life of Bees. They are of a cloth. The women of this tale, like the men in Lake Wobegon are all strong. The matriarch, Charlie Kate becomes a local legend with her broad knowledge of healing and her tenacity at gettin ...more
Apr 24, 2010 Angela rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Don't ask me what it is about Kaye Gibbons. She just has one of those voices that speaks to me from somewhere out of my ancestral southern past, I guess. Some smooth, smokey drawl that captures my attention, and holds it, drawing it into the hearts of her characters, so that her stories for me are far, far more than the sum of their parts. They are all women's stories, and stories of adversity, with a southern flavor that is so familiar to me, it truly seems to call out from my own distant past. ...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
"I have read two books a week for thirty years. I am satisfied that I know everything."
So says Charlie Kate Birch, and she's not shy about sharing her knowledge, whether you want to hear it or not. Charlie Kate is an early-1900s North Carolina midwife, herbalist, and self-styled doctor (with no official credentials). She's feisty, outspoken, and somewhat manipulative, but also very civic-minded and generous. You can't help liking her, even if she is a little too full of herself. Her daughter So
Rachel Crooks
This book swept me into its fabric from the first page, mainly because the main character, Charlie Kate, is so unconventional and the stories of her turn-of-the-century life in the South are so shockingly humorous, tragic and honest.

We all hope to know someone (or be someone) a little like Charlie Kate: always knowing exactly what to do in any situation, dauntlessly moving forward and dictating the way our world will be. Like a magnet, her character attracts people to her, and whether she is
May 29, 2011 Vasha7 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It belongs to a genre that I'm not generally fond of, southern small-town stories of generational ties with eccentric characters; as the front cover blurb has it, "as invigorating as sarsaparilla and as soothing as lemon-balm tea". They always seem to feature women who are not only independent and self-achievers, but staunchly anti-racist throughout the whole 20th century. Still, Charms for the Easy Life is incontestably well-written, and it pretty much steers clear of the traps of sentimentalit ...more
May 11, 2010 Donna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, favorites
I enjoyed every word and I love picking up historical tidbits. One was that Duke University outlawed jitterbugging during the early forties, not for moral reasons, but because too many students were ending up in the infirmary with dislocated shoulders.
Mar 13, 2015 Gloria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very fitting that I read this book over the International Women's Day weekend. Although narrated by Margaret, the star and central character is her grandmother Charlie Kate. What a woman! Never back down; never settle for just any man; never give in to pressure; and always believe your decisions are right were her guiding principles, and the ones she tried to instill in her daughter and granddaughter. I couldn't stop reading about this turn of the century self-taught healer, midwife, surgeon; an ...more
Ro Laberee
Jan 11, 2015 Ro Laberee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ro by:
What makes this book such a gem, other than Gibbons' masterful pen, is that the characters are exquisitely present in their lives. You do not see this in the life of a woman in this century. Charlie Kate, Sophia and Margaret - each is living the life they want to live. - not terribly complicated lives, but luxuriously meaningful and purposeful lives.

I did not want the story to end. (I want to hear from grandmother every day!) I'm going to read it again just so I can jot down some of grandmother
Linda HB
Jun 18, 2016 Linda HB rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club-books
This book was a surprise--a very pleasant one. It is a familiar format of late 20th century literature: the steel magnolia Southern women who surmount countless obstacles not the least of which are a string of weak, unreliable, and troublesome men by leaning on one another. But this book is actually much more than that. It's a coming of age story but also the story of a remarkable woman who is determined destroy, whenever possible, every kind of cultural nonsense, stupidity, and prejudice. A wom ...more
Mar 23, 2009 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult-fiction
I really enjoyed this novel. It takes place mostly in the 1940's around the time of WW2 and is told from the perspective of Margaret the daughter/granddaughter of this female three generation household.

The Grandmother is "Charly Kate", a name she picked for herself and she is as smart, sassy, sharp and self-reliant to boot. She runs a alternative medicine practice out of her home where her granddaughter assists her in her labors of caring for the pregnant, the ill, and basically making up for t
Aug 16, 2008 Annette rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: chick-lit fans
Recommended to Annette by: Amy
Shelves: adult
Here are the things that I liked about the book:
1) The setting - N. Carolina 1900-1946
2) The strong female characters - Charlie Kate, her daughter, Sophia, and grandaughter, Margaret
3) romance - this wasn't the main focus of the book, the men definitely take a backseat in this novel, but there is a little romance and (thank goodness) it's not sappy :)
4) the author's writing style - I wasn't sure if I liked it at first, but once I got into it I liked it.

There are only a couple of little nit-picky
Feb 24, 2015 Caprice rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 16, 2009 Janice rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What seemed like a simple story of three generations in a family of southern women speaks of the connectivity between generations that families sometimes have. I like to think that for those of us who have been fortunate enough to have had strong role models and who have benefitted from their wisdom and folly, Kaye Gibbons' story strikes a chord within us. Her fine illustration of how these women could argue, call one another names, and be utterly different yet still maintain love and respect fo ...more
May 11, 2016 Brianne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well where have I been? How did I miss such a wonderful author?
I really enjoyed this book!! Everything was great - the writing, the characters, the pace (not too slow, not too fast). I think you can tell if a book is good by how you feel when it ends. Well I did NOT want this to be over!

The book is about three generations (grandmother, mother and daughter), with Margaret, the daughter, narrating. Most of the story takes place between 1940-1945 (I'm pretty sure those are the dates) and it follo
Kathrine Holyoak
Mar 16, 2013 Kathrine Holyoak rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of truths I center my life around is from Marjorie Hinckley speaking on female relationships, “Oh, how we need each other. Those of us who are old need you who are young. And, hopefully, you who are young need some of us who are old. It is a sociological fact that women need women. We need deep and satisfying and loyal friendships with each other.” I never tire of that theme or plots which revolve around it. My life could be considered neither "charmed" nor "easy" without a huge cast of "bes ...more
Sarah Goodwin
Jun 11, 2013 Sarah Goodwin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another goodreads recommendation. I really loved this book, it is incredibly well written, striking the perfect balance between well paced dialogue and description.

I loved the little anecdotes that made up the story as a whole, the sad, poignant moments and the bizarre characteristics of the characters, all of which made them very real and gave them depth.

I finished this book knowing that it meant a lot, and knowing that I'd have to read and re-read it over an over to get to see all the little
Nov 10, 2008 Rachel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Okay, I know since embarking out on my project of Read All Unread Books in my House, I've started every review this way, but it's really ridiculous that it took me this long to read this book? Why? Because my dear mother gave it to me for Christmas in 1998--it says so on the inside of the front cover.

And I really should have read it 10 years ago when she gave it to me because it's fabulous!

The characters are so vivid I feel like I could call them up.

Also, the whole atmosphere of the book, even
Jan 22, 2016 Jen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This novel is written uniquely. It's almost like a long narrative or memoir, with little dialogue. I found the story of the three Women very interesting. I admired their strength and how they had each other, despite difficult trials along the way. This book could have kept going for me, I of course wanted more of an ending or epilogue. I loved the setting of the south and the time period of the early 20th century. This will be our May 2013 book club pick. I can't wait it see the movie version an ...more
Mar 05, 2010 Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This is a BEAUTIFUL read. Kaye Gibbons' love for language is evident in each and every perfectly rendered (yep, I just went there) sentence. One particular scene that stands out in this story (about family life) is after "The Grapes of Wrath" is first published and the women are impatient to wait their turn to read the book. Soon they are all sitting on the sofa reading each chapter out loud to one another- stopping only for bathroom breaks. Goodness. I wanted to be in that scene.

Kaye Gibbons,
Naomi Sarah
Jun 19, 2015 Naomi Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this book up at the bookstall downstairs in the hall at our Church (which is kinda a place where everyone dumps books they don't want (I've only very recently discovered this dump-place and I'm very happy about it.)) I picked this book up because of the awesome title, and all the praising quotes sprawled around the cover and backcover.

It was very nice, but not amazing.

What I liked:
1. The title. It's perfect.
2. I have always loved stories starting with the Grandma, going over to the Moth
May 06, 2009 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
This in one of my cousin's favorite books. After she read if for the sixth time, she lent me her copy. When I started, I thought that I would be reading something like "Confessions of a Shopaholic", but about 40 pages in to it, I realized that I was wrong! Once I shifted gears, I'm really enjoyed it. The writing is fabulous! Gibbons writes a story about strong, interesting women. For both my cousin and me, we especially love the grandmother because she reminds us so much of ours!
Aug 06, 2014 Kiersten rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really loved everything about this book. I was immediately drawn into the story of Sophia, Margaret, and Charlie Kate. Gibbons introduces Charlie Kate, the narrator's plucky grandmother. When young, she saves a man who has been lynched. He not only spreads the word, making her something of a legend, but also gives her some old charms (for the easy life). This book is a peek into her life, the life she makes with her daughter (Sophia) and her granddaughter (Margaret). A quote the author quotes ...more
I really liked this author. I love the tone she uses in telling her story. The characters are warm and dimensional and quirky. The author also has a wonderful sense of humor. She tells the story of three generations of women at the turn of the century up until about 1945. They are intelligent and feisty and the theme of country doctor/herbalist is fascinating. Truly charming. I will definitely read more from this author.
Apr 07, 2008 Lara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I re-read this book over the weekend, and was so pleased to find myself loving at as much as I did the first go-round, ten years ago. I've always had a special place in my heart for certain Southern writers and Kaye Gibbons is among them; this is my favorite of her books. I think I love this so much because the main characters are strong, independent, feisty women. What's not to like?
Regina Best
May 31, 2014 Regina Best rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've read this well-written, intelligent, hilarious and thoughtful book about 5 times, and I recommend it to anyone I meet who likes intelligent fiction. It's the story of a formidable young country "healer" in the rural south at the turn of the 20th century, Charlie Kate, her smart, impetuous daughter Sophia and Sophia's bookish and very funny daughter Margaret. With Margaret as narrator, we learn about backwoods medical practices, and the healers/midwives who tended to the poor. Filled with ec ...more
Apr 12, 2015 Elvia rated it it was amazing
This book was so amazing that I want to go out and read everything she has written and I think that is saying something. This story takes place a little over a hundred years ago and spans the life of three remarkable women. I found this story so empowering to women. Margaret tells of the story of her grandmother, Charlie Kate and her mother Sophia Snow. They are all part of a medicine woman clan back in the time when these women were revered and empowered. Charlie Kate was a doctor in everything ...more
2 1/2 stars. This is not the most boring book I've read, but there is absolutely no conflict to keep it moving. More than anything, it reads like a girl's tribute to a beloved grandmother. That's great, but not a barnburner.
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Kaye Gibbons was born in 1960 in Nash County, North Carolina, on Bend of the River Road. She attended North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, studying American and English literature. At twenty-six years old, she wrote her first novel, Ellen Foster. Praised as an extraordinary debut, Eudora Welty said that "the honesty of thought and eye and feeling and ...more
More about Kaye Gibbons...

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“You’ll find your one-in-a-million. But you’re sharp enough to know there’s no point in sludging through the first nine hundred, ninety-nine thousand, and ninety-nine to get to him.” 18 likes
“I am a great believer in variations on the routine.” 8 likes
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