Ballantine, Jul 27 2010, $15.00
In 2001, Mother Suzanne Ravenel begins taping her memories of fifty plus years of teaching at Mount Saint Gabriel's School in Mountain City, North Carolina. Looking back at her time in Appalachian Mountains school, she has fond memories of some classes like that of ’74 and the 1930s when she attended the school as a student.
However, the class that sticks out in her head was the most horrific, 1951-52. The year of toxicity started with the arrival of ninth-grader Chloe Starnes, who was grieving her mother who had just died. Young Mother Malloy was assigned to the freshman class. Chloe’s cousin Tildy Stratton becomes her BFF. However, she is uninformed as to her manipulative cousin picking up her mom Cordelia’s vendetta against Mother Suzanne.
This is an intriguing character study that uses the memories of Mother Suzanne to tell the story of feuding people. The engine that drives the story line is Cordelia rather than Mother Suzanne; which adds to the depth the audience sees of the prime cast; years after the two key events that shaped their animosity occurred. Although too many tertiary players crowd the stage at times, Gail Godwin provides an interesting drama.