Jen's Reviews > Bound South

Bound South by Susan Rebecca White
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Apr 27, 09

bookshelves: southern-lit, womens-fiction
Read in April, 2009

** spoiler alert ** I picked this book up after hearing the author read from it at the Virginia Festival of the Book. Her description of it at that reading felt like it was equally about three characters whose lives were all tied together, but really, I think this is Louise's story. Her daughter, Caroline, and her housekeeper's daughter, Missy, also have stories to be told during the book, but Louise is the tie that binds. She has the most chapters in the book written from her perspective, and she is the character who experiences the most real growth. So I'm going to talk about her last.

Missy's story is the most concise. She's a teenager living in a poor area outside of Atlanta. Her mom has been working for Louise Parker for as long as she can remember, and Louise is kind to her, like a second (wealthy) mother. Her dad abandoned them when she was a small child, and she has hoping for him to come back and have a relationship with her ever since. She finally gets the chance to meet him when she finds out he's starring in a Christian drama on public access out of North Carolina, and she goes on a road trip with Louise's son, Charles, to find him. She finds out the truth about her dad, so she can let him go, and also goes through an experience that will change her life forever.

Caroline is the rebellious wild child of the Parker family. She's the oldest child and has been openly defiant of her mother's proper Southern ladylike ideals since she was five years old. She won't eat, dress, talk, or act in any way befitting her heritage and stature. She and her mother are constantly battling over everything, until she gets caught in a compromising position with her teacher. Then she runs off to San Francisco with her teacher, and their relationship is remarkably improved by the distance. She explores her desires and passions, works in the local theatre community, gets in and out of a bad marriage, gains a lot of weight and finally ends up with someone suited to her. In other words, she grows up. And it's a nice growing up story, but not ground-breaking.

Then there is Louise. Bizarre, struggling, complicated, proper Louise. Her entire adult life has been structured around being a good wife and mother and a wonderful hostess and friend. She believes in being polite at all costs and serving delicious food. The one thing she does for herself is buy folk art. She doesn't care what anyone else thinks of the art she buys; she just buys what she responds to emotionally and intellectually. Her daughter moves out, her son announces he's gay, her husband shares that he thinks his twin brother who committed suicide while they were in college was gay, she turns her house into an art gallery a few times a month, she smokes weed for the first time with her daughter in California, she lets an artist take a photo of her lady parts...and she generally lets go and becomes herself. And becomes happy. Hers is by far the most detailed and interesting transformation.

I really enjoyed reading this book. I'm a total Southern lit junkie, as most of you know, and this is right up my alley.
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