Synopsis from Goodreads:
The author of three beloved books about her life in Italy, including Under the Tuscan Sun and Every Day in Tuscany, Frances Mayes revisits the turning points that defined her early years in Fitzgerald, Georgia. With her signature style and grace, Mayes explores the power of landscape, the idea of home, and the lasting force of a chaotic and loving family.
From her years as a spirited, secretive child, through her university studies—a period of exquisite freedom that imbued her with a profound appreciation of friendship and a love of travel—to her escape to a new life in California, Mayes exuberantly recreates the intense relationships of her past, recounting the bitter and sweet stories of her complicated family: her beautiful yet fragile mother, Frankye; her unpredictable father, Garbert; Daddy Jack, whose life Garbert saved; grandmother Mother Mayes; and the family maid, Frances’s confidant Willie Bell.
Under Magnolia is a searingly honest, humorous, and moving ode to family and place, and a thoughtful meditation on the ways they define us, or cause us to define ourselves. With acute sensory language, Mayes relishes the sweetness of the South, the smells and tastes at her family table, the fragrance of her hometown trees, and writes an unforgettable story of a girl whose perspicacity and dawning self-knowledge lead her out of the South and into the rest of the world, and then to a profound return home.
Being a huge fan of Francis Mayes’ Under the Tuscan Sun, I was really excited to dig into this one. To be honest, though, I had a lot of trouble really getting into Under Magnolia. It’s written in a sort of stream-of-consciousness way that made me have to work to follow along, the story jumps from here to there and back to here so many times that I regularly got lost and had to go back and try to figure out what I was reading about for the last page or so.
Now don’t get me wrong, this book is beautifully written in so many ways. Some of the descriptions of the South, the taste of good southern food, the smell of magnolia blossoms, and the way we southerners are truly “steeped” in something that stays with us are absolutely spot on. She beautifully finds humor in the stories of her past, even through her childhood with a drunken father and a manic mother. Her childhood leaves her desperate to get out of the South, though in the end it would ultimately pull her back home to everything that is familiar.
All of this to say that, while I am glad I read it, this book was not one of my favorites. I lean toward books that keep me wanting to come back to read more and more all the time, and while written in beautiful language Under Magnolia didn’t do that. I gave it three stars on Goodreads.
**I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own.**