Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Summer in the South-Cathy Holton

Summer in the South
Cathy Holton
Ballantine, May 24 2011, $25.00
ISBN: 9780345506016

In 1931 at the Purdy Funeral Home in Tennessee, Josephine Woodburn identifies the corpse of her brother-in-law Charles Woodburn. Sherriff Gillespie declares it an accidental drowning due to alcohol though the body was excessively battered, but no one challenges the powerful Woodburn clan.

In 1998, Ava Dabrwoski mourns the death of her mother though they were estranged. Former college classmate Will Fraser invites Ava to spend time with his great aunts at Woodburn estate where she can write her novel. She accepts as Ava met Aunts Josephine and Fanny at the college graduation where she learned Will had broken off his engagement.

Josephine, Fanny, the latter’s spouse Maitland and their neighbors Clara and Alice welcome Ava as they enjoy toddy time. Will kisses her, but she says to slow down as she has just come out of a bad relationship. Later she meets his cousin Fraser Baron. Over the next few weeks, Ava feels welcomed but has written nothing. Will remains patient but obviously wants Ava. They join Fanny and Mait at the cemetery where Ava leans that Fanny’s first husband was Charles Woodbridge who died during the Depression. Ava begins to learn her hosts’ family led a regional caste system and starts to novelize it.

The upper class world of the south during the Depression and in 1998 is fully described as seen through the eyes and ears of the outsider Ava the narrator. .The vividness of the two different eras at times slows down the tale though that sets the mood of a leisure Summer in the South. Although some elements seem to vanish; for instance a paranormal incident, readers will enjoy this engaging look at the south circa 1930s and over six decades later.

Harriet Klausner

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