Sidna 's Reviews > The Last Resort: Taking the Mississippi Cure

The Last Resort by Norma Watkins
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's review
Mar 20, 2012

it was ok
Read in March, 2012

In a newspaper review, this book was compared to The Help, although the author started writing it long before The Help was published.

I don't feel that The Help is a good comparison because this is Norma Watkins' autobiography. The book begins in 1943 when Norma was 7 years old. Her father, an attorney, volunteers for service in World War II. Norma, her 4-year-old sister, Mary Elizabeth, and her mother move to Allison's Wells, a popular Mississippi spa owned by Norma's mother's family. Norma's mother grew up in the resort, which is now run by Norma's aunt Hosford and her husband John Fontaine. The first section details the two years her family spent at Allison's Wells while her father served in the war.

Norma's father gets a leave during the war and her mother joins him in California for a few days. Nine months after she returns, her mother gives birth to Norma's sister Sydney. The mother's doctor tells her that her heart cannot survive the delivery of another baby so the mother has a hysterectomy. Norma's father decides he no longer loves her mother now that she cannot give him a son.

Norma's mother is an alcoholic and her father is a womanizer. When her father finally returns, her family moves back to an nice home in the better part of Jackson, Mississippi, also the location of The Help. He brought another woman and her son, the family of one of his service buddies, with him. He wants to move to Miami with the other woman, but she and her son finally leave to join her husband when he is released from service. Norma's father then starts an affair with his secretary and eventually moves out of the family home.

Norma's mother is embarrassed to have her bridge and Junior League friends know that her husband is having a public affair with his secretary. She gets family members and clergy men to talk to him and they finally convince him to move back home. However, he does not speak to Norma's mother and he goes back to the office every night immediately after dinner.

Norma finally grows up, attends college at Ole Miss for two years, but finds college grey so marries a home builder. They buy a home in the nice part of town and Norma joins the Junior League, as she was raised to do. Her husband is a terrible lover so she feels she is justfied in having sexual affairs with a variety of men. She also gives birth to four children with her husband.

Norma's father becomes the attorney for Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett and fights integration. Norma has become enlightened and favors integration. Her husband does not express an opinion, but also seems to be in favor of segregation or "separate, but equal."

Norma begins an affair with Bruce, an integration organizer. After several months, Bruce gets a job in Miami and convinces Norma to go with him, leaving her four children in the care of her in-laws and Marie, the woman who raised her. Norma's three older children are in elementary school, but the youngest one is still at home. Bruce tells her they will send for her children. They never get the children, but Norma gets her Master's Degree and teaches at a community college.

This book leaves a lot of unanswered questions. Who are we supposed to root for in this book? Norma is not a likeable character. Out of nearly 80 years of living, she chooses to include a childhood episode in the book that does not do her credit. As an adult, she puts her own wants ahead of the needs of her young children.

The Epilogue discusses her mother's death in 1970. By that time she has divorced her first husband and married Bruce. The book was published in 2011 so her children are adults now, but she does not mention how any of them turned out, even though she claims to have seen them four times per year. We have no idea if she and Bruce are still married or if she has moved on to someone else. She uses her maiden name so there is no clue there.

A couple of times in the book she mentions that her sister Mary Elizabeth is mentally unbalanced, but she gives no evidence of that. Her sister married and stayed in Jackson to take care of her parents. Her other sister Sydney is barely mentioned in the book and we have no idea how her life turned out.

Norma says that in her efforts not to be like her mother, she has become her father. That statement pretty much sums up her life.

I am lending my copy of this book to a friend who grew up in Jackson, Mississippi, but I'm not sure that I would recommend it to anyone.

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message 1: by Book Concierge (new)

Book Concierge Well, you've convince me not to read it ...

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