Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “A Southern Exposure” as Want to Read:
A Southern Exposure
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

A Southern Exposure

3.02  ·  Rating details ·  223 ratings  ·  31 reviews
"A work that will be for many readers as memorable as the last decade's Superior Women, and her exquisite novel from the 1970s, Listening to Billie."
--San Francisco Chronicle
It is 1939, a brief, hopeful moment between the Depression and war. The Baird family--Harry, Cynthia, and their precocious daughter Abby--have escaped the burdens of their Connecticut life to salvage t
Paperback, 320 pages
Published October 29th 1996 by Ballantine Books (first published 1995)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about A Southern Exposure, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about A Southern Exposure

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.02  · 
Rating details
 ·  223 ratings  ·  31 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Feb 04, 2014 rated it liked it
Set in rural southern US in the years leading up to WWII. A revelation as to how Southerners behave or don't behave, think or don't think. How things are made right by just not talking about them.
Elizabeth Hook
Dec 26, 2014 rated it liked it
This was a good book,full of characters in a setting of the "new" south, ie: pre WW2,in a very socially active small University Town. The gist of the story line is a couple moving from Connecticut, drawn for various reasons to live in a smaller southern town. Both husband and wife are escaping to a more affordable, what they assume colorful place. The wife escaping a bill she cannot pay from Lord and Taylors in NYC, the man helping to settle in a less rat race town where he may have a higher soc ...more
Mar 14, 2017 rated it did not like it
This was a real bummer of a book for me. I was intrigued with the premise of the story: well-off society New Yorker family on the run from messed up past, set in immediate pre-WWll era, settle up in a small southern town for a new start. Unfortunately, not one single element of the writing lived up to what could have been an interesting read. I was initially slightly amused with the flippant style the author used to introduce the ridiculous Baird family, but the lack of substance in this style o ...more
Jul 25, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Southern Exposure is a perfect read for the summer, because the story just rolls along without too much fanfare or over-the-top drama, much like an errant breeze on a hot, humid July afternoon.

Oh, there is a cast of flawed characters, many of them misbehaving, but nothing really shocking or depressing. In spite of their oft lack of judgment and sense, both the people of Pinehill and would-be Southerner Baird family were rather likeable.

This is my first Alice Adams book, and I enjoyed it enough t
Susan Freeman
Dec 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
In many ways this is a sad book. The characters seem to live such misdirected lives. That being said, I did get caught up in those lives and the dialogue.
Apr 24, 2019 rated it it was ok
Did not live up to it's potential,
H Gibson
May 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Enjoy my full review at
Feb 10, 2018 added it
Zeta Reads for February 2018. My choice by this author.

I truly enjoyed this sweet book about a northern family moving to a small southern town & embracing it.
Michael Smith
Nov 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
Alice Adams was one of the great storytellers of the late 20th century, best known for her short stories, but I’ve always loved her novels. And she was one of the great delineators of character, too, painting deft portraits of urbane but conflicted Northern women and smart but constricted Southerners. And she could set them in their milieu and tell you all the important things to know about them in just a few sentences. The setting this time is the small college town of Pinehill (North Carolina, ...more
Mary Lou
Feb 10, 2017 rated it it was ok
Never really went anywhere; unsatisfying.
Evanston Public  Library
When the Baird family--Harry, Cynthia, and 10-year old daughter Abigail--late of Connecticut relocate to sleepy Pinehill, South Carolina in 1939, they are seeking a fresh start at the tail end of the Depression and the eve of World War II. They hope to leave behind a slightly unsatisfactory life. Their marriage was entering a luke warm phase, their associations back home did quite not offer a society wherein they shone, and that $300+ Lord & Taylor bill was bound to create embarassment. Harr ...more
Oct 23, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This had the potential to be a good book - however I feel it was very poorly written. There was just so many "little" stories going on at once and it was all over the place. There was no character development therefore I really didn't care what happened to anyone. It would have been much better had the author picked one or two of stories and developed them more along the characters. I kept waiting for it get better but never did - this one of those times that Im sorry I made myself finish it - a ...more
Dana Carey
Oct 07, 2011 rated it liked it
Now that I've moved, I'm getting around to reading books that fell in the nooks and crannies. I bought this book years ago at a steep discount because I liked the cover (not the one shown on this site, BTW). I was pleasantly surprised. A depression-era story set in the southern US, told in the third person present tense with an omniscient narrator-- kind of interesting after reading batches of books told in 1st person/present tense. A fast read.
Jun 09, 2014 rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this book, but just could not. The premise was good - the Depression wreaked havoc on the inherited wealth; the precocious daughter, the parents willing to make changes in their lives - but the story just never took flight. Many of the characters were just the same when the story ended (after several years) as when it started.

I enjoy Southern literature, however this one was colorless and bland.
Aug 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
I devoured this on vacation. I love reading Southern family stories. This had humor, lust, redemption, family dysfunction and pig shit. What more could you ask of Southern literature?
I found it in the library of the lodge where we were staying, and it definitely made me want to read more of Alice Adams' work.
Sep 02, 2014 rated it did not like it
This was just about the most confusing book I've ever read. The author was all over the place like she was on some kind of drugs that made her thoughts flit here there and every where. It took me forever to read because I had to keep going back and rereading to see what in the world she was talking about and who it was that was doing the talking. The book made absolutely no sense at all.
Jan 06, 2009 rated it it was ok
I generally like books that are very character driven but I didn't particularly like any of the characters in this book, nor did I find them compelling. I finished the book still waiting for something interesting to happen beyond people behaving badly and getting away with it.
Lynn Shurden
Jan 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
Great book to read along with The Help by Stockett.
Jun 13, 2015 rated it liked it
Savored the delicious writing and enjoyed the characters but wanted it to go somewhere more interesting.
Jan 26, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: novels
I like most of the people or at least was interested in what happened to them. The problem was that not much happened. In the end, I felt no one had grown or done anything about their problems.
Jan 22, 2008 rated it liked it
A lovely novel. Great, but not required reading like her short story collections.
Judy Templeton-sims
Apr 11, 2013 rated it did not like it
I shouldn't say that I didn't like this book. I just couldn't find the interest to read it. It was hard to get started.
Interesting, non-stereotypical characters. But, the plot seems trite by comparison.
Sep 09, 2012 rated it did not like it
Just couldn't finish this book - need a shelf for that. Actually, couldn't get started.
Susan Beecher
Sep 25, 2014 rated it liked it
Entertaining novel with a satirical tone.
Apr 02, 2011 rated it did not like it
I just couldn't get into this book, and have stopped reading. Going to return it to the library shortly. Too many other books to read!
Loreldonaghey Donaghey
Nothing to say about this. I read it.
Mar 03, 2008 rated it it was ok
A fluff novel I read by accident. Don't judge!!!
May 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
I have rediscovered Alice Adams and she is a mesmerizing writer. This is one of her later books, and quite gritty but very satisfying in the end.
Carol Heiss
Aug 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Excellent, look up her other books
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Where the Souls Go
  • Miracle on I-40
  • Eat More Dirt: Diverting and Instructive Tips for Growing and Tending an Organic Garden
  • Yonder Stands Your Orphan
  • Letters From Eden: A Year at Home, in the Woods
  • Sufficient Grace
  • Gods, Heroes and Men of Ancient Greece: Mythology's Great Tales of Valor and Romance
  • Tending to Virginia
  • Bed & Breakfast
  • Hallelujah! The Welcome Table: A Lifetime of Memories with Recipes
  • The House on an Irish Hillside
  • Wonder Woman: The Complete History
  • Goat Dance
  • Christmas with Paula Deen: Recipes and Stories from My Favorite Holiday
  • The Tender Mercy of Roses
  • A Dollar Short: The Bottom Dollar Girls Go Hollywood (Bottom Dollar Girls, #2)
  • The Best of McSweeney's
  • Hummingbird House
See similar books…
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Alice Adams was an American novelist, short story writer, academic and university professor.

She was born in Fredericksburg, Virginia and attended Radcliffe College, graduating in 1946. She married, and had a child, but her marriage broke up, and she spent several years as