Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Garden Angel by Mindy Friddle

A week ago I was able to attend my Asheville Book Group. There were a couple new members (since 3 of us moved to the Triad last summer), and one of them is Valerie (see about her book). We read The Garden Angel by Mindy Friddle, someone Valerie knows. She was able to set up a speaker phone call with Mindy so that we could talk with her about the book, ask questions, and have her comments and insights. It was a really good evening - I wish I could always talk with the author of books I read.

I must say up front that I really liked this book. (I am a little amazed that I've read two works of fiction in a row that I really liked!) Mindy has written a true Southern novel, but one that thankfully does not fall into the melodramatic Oprah versions of Southern fiction. Mindy provided some great insights into what really makes Southern fiction - not just a setting, but how that setting permeates the characters. The basic story is this - a young woman named Cutter (who lives in a very tiny drive-thru town near Greenville, SC in the late 1980s) is desperately trying to save her grand and historic home. Every real estate agent should read the techniques Cutter uses to keep potential buyers from being interested in her home! (some truly hilarious pieces) Mindy does a great job combining humor with the serious issues of life. Cutter becomes friends with Elizabeth, a woman dealing with free-floating anxiety. Cutter's younger sister is also having an affair with Elizabeth's husband, a man who is the sister's college professor. The book deals with how Cutter and Elizabeth try to maintain or find roots in their lives - how they try to move forward in the midst of what seems like overwhelming odds.

I don't want to give away more of the story. The characters are full and compelling. The story feels real - it is funny, sad, poignant and interesting. I asked Mindy if she knew what would happen to the characters after the story ended - she did not. Yet it's so well-written that one can't help but imagine what the future holds for them. I recommend picking up the book and having a good read.

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