Category Archives: Southern Fiction

Mysteries of the Ozarks (Volume III)

High Hill Press has recently published Mysteries of the Ozarks (Volume III), a collection of twenty-six stories “dedicated to those who have strong ties to the Ozarks and those who love reading abou this beautiful land.”

The anthology is edited by Ellen Gray Massey. Contributors include: Velda Brotherton, Jory Sherman, Radine Trees Nehring, Betty Craker Henderson, Jane Hale, Carolyn Gray Thornton, Larry Woods, Bari Bumgarner, and several others.

While I haven’t read all the stories in the anthology, the ones I’ve read have been great.

How can you not be swept away with stories such as “The Mystery of Cedar Shade” by Jory Sherman, “The Missing Skull” by Velda Brotherton, or “Catfish Jack” by Roberta Vaughan Schwinke. 

The story of “Catfish Jack” is based on an Osage County legend, memorialized by the poem: “Catfish Jack lived in a shack, left one day and never came back.”

If you’re looking for a collection of stories that capture the essence of the Ozarks region of southern Missouri and northern Arkansas, with its scenic hills where the Osage Indians once roamed, check out Mysteries of the Ozarks  (Volume III).



Filed under Anthology, Fiction, Mystery, Southern Fiction

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan Looks at Racism in the South after World War II

I couldn’t find a famous author’s birthday for today, but I found a historic event. On June 15, 1215, King John signs Magna Carta at Runnymede, England.

mudboundThe book I’ve chosed this week is the novel MUDBOUND by Hillary Jordan, published by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. Last year I received the book as part of a prize package for being a top ten winner in the WOW! Spring Flash Fiction Contest. I added Mudbound to my stack of “to be read” books. It took me several months to get to it, but once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down.

The story takes place in the Mississippi Delta at the end of World War II, where two Southern families, the McAllans, who are white, and the Johnsons, who are black, struggle to eke out a living raising cotton in the unforgiving delta. When the rain falls, the waters rise , creating a sea of mud, isolating the families from town.  

The book opens from Jamie McAllen’s point of view. Jamie is a damaged war hero. He and his brother Henry and Henry’s wife Laura are in a rush to bury the McAllens’ father before the storm sets in. Right away I wondered, what happened to the father. Ronsel Johnson is also a war hero, but some in the community are not as welcoming because of the color of his skin.  

Mudbound is a beautifully written story about love and loss and betrayal and the ugliness of racism. Told from the points of view of Jamie, Henry, and Laura McAllan and Ronsel, Hap, and Florence Johnson, whose voices are clear and compelling. Mudbound is a lovely work of fiction with a haunting story.  In 2006 Mudbound won the Bellweather Prize for fiction, which awarded biannually to a first literary novel that addresses issues of social justice

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Filed under Fiction, Literary Fiction, Southern Fiction, Uncategorized

SECRET KEEPERS, a novel by Mindy Friddle

This is my very first book discussion on my A Book A Week Blog, where once a week I will introduce my readers to a book I have read. Each blog will begin with a small note about a writer whose birthday is celebrated today.

June 1 – Happy birthday, Australian author Colleen McCullough. She was born June 1, 1937.  She wrote the novel The Thorn Birds in 1977. 

Now, on to my very first book discussion. 

I have chosen the novel SECRET KEEPERS by Mindy Friddle as my first book. It is one I read recently and was swept away by the writing, strong sense of place, and engaging characters.

secretkeepersSECRET KEEPERS  is set in the fictitious town of Palmetto, South Carolina. The year is 1987–an era of big hair, leg-warmer aerobic classes, and Sanka coffee.

The once robust city of Palmetto held much promise; now it is in a state of stagnation, as are the lives of many of its residents.

Seventy-two-year-old Emma Hanley’s dream is to take “The Trip” and travel Europe. Her husband Harold isn’t as enthused. His unseemly death and burial are cause for consternation and scandal among some family members and the town gossips.

Emma’s life has been one of sorrow, missed opportunities, and shouldering responsibilities for others. Her grown daughter Dora has settled into a joyless marriage. The former flower child shed her Hippie’s beads decades earlier after her brother Will was killed in Vietnam. Emma’s son Bobby, brilliant as a youngster, suffers from an illness that has erased his once-promising future. Dora’s son Kyle is torn between trying to please his strict, Bible-thumping father and his teenage longings to experience life.

When Dora’s old flame, Jake Carey, returns to town and begins a landscaping business, secrets are unearthed and the town is transformed into something magical.

The beguiling cover of SECRET KEEPERS, with its boots/planters, bring to mind many of the characters in Friddle’s novel–worn out and damaged, but still functional and capable of letting beauty shine through.

SECRET KEEPERS is a beautifully written novel of love and loss and renewal. Friddle’s warm and engaging novel of life in a decaying southern town sparkles with memorable characters and a story that will linger long after turning the last page.  In addition to being an acclaimed writer, Friddle is a Master Gardner, and her respect for the beauty of nature shines throughout her novel.  Donna Volkenannt


Filed under Fiction, Southern Fiction