Thursday, September 11, 2008

Going Down South by Bonnie J. Glover

Bonnie Glover's Going Down South is a moving story about three generations of mothers and daughters brought together during a crisis. Daisy Stone moved from Cold Water Springs, Alabama, to New York as a young mother-to-be, escaping her imprisoned mother, Birdie, and not expecting to ever go back. However, Birdie is the first person Daisy turns to when her 15-year-old daughter, Olivia Jean, becomes pregnant. Cold Water Springs will provide refuge to Olivia Jean during her pregnancy, removing her from the critical stares and gossip. This is the 1960s, a different world than the one we know now--a world where the stigma of teenage pregnancy might haunt a girl for the rest of her life.

Daisy is a seamstress who has an intense love for her husband, Turk, even though he stays out late drinking and philandering and sometimes doesn't come home for days. Olivia Jean often finds herself competing with her mother for her father's affections. She has a close relationship with her father, sticking up for him during her mother's tirades, but Turk wants nothing to do with his daughter when the pregnancy is revealed. When the family arrives in Cold Water Springs, Birdie has no intention of letting her daughter go back to New York; she'll keep Olivia Jean, but only if Daisy stays, too. The three women must build a life together, knocking down the walls around their hearts in the process.

The story is told from the point of view of each of the three women, and the narrative flows easily from present to past to present again. Glover does an excellent job putting the reader in the scene, and she obviously has a great knowledge of the workings of small towns in the Deep South during the time period covered in Going Down South.

But Going Down South is about the characters, and Glover showcases three of the strongest female characters I've ever read. Birdie confronts racial discrimination head-on--and her family is torn apart as a result. She also supports herself and Daisy in a dangerous occupation, which I won't give away here because I think the glimpses into Birdie's past are the most fascinating parts of the book. I loved the character of Birdie, especially when she causes a scene when she, Daisy, and pregnant Olivia Jean attend church services. I felt an affection for her right away.

Daisy endures abuse at the hands of two men in her life, and both times, she is able to start a new life for herself. Her character seems a little cold at times, but when all of her secrets come tumbling out, it's easy to see why. (And, boy, do these women have secrets! It's these secrets that cause much pain, as well as lead them on the road to healing their relationships.)

Despite her unplanned pregnancy, Olivia Jean is an innocent young girl, but very intelligent and very brave. She stands up to Daisy when it comes to the future of her baby, and her desire to be loved pulls at your heart. Glover does not condone teenage pregnancy in the book, but readers have no doubt that the baby will be well cared for and loved.

Going Down South is a delightful read about real women, flaws and all. Glover expertly weaves numerous weighty issues (teenage pregnancy, racism, abortion, rape, infidelity, interracial marriage) into a story that primarily is about the bonds between mothers and daughters. She shows how we might not live our lives perfectly, we might even hurt one another, but there always is room for love, forgiveness, and another chance to make things right.

I love this passage about Daisy toward the end of the book: She looked out the window past the small dirt yard and to the horizon, watching the moon. And she thought of the journey the Earth made each day, twenty-four endless hours around the sun. And there were the things that happened on Earth, the love, the hatred, the petty jealousies, and then the peace that came after all the drama finished. The peace that God promised, the one that surpassed all understanding, and she knew that she had it. All her secrets were out in the open. That was her peace. She no longer had to hold on to anyone, man or woman. (p. 239-240)

Going Down South also was reviewed by:

She Is Too Fond of Books
Booking Mama

Reading and Ruminations
Redlady's Reading Room
Book Escape
Bookworm's Dinner
Peeking Between the Pages


Bonnie Glover kindly agreed to let me interview her. Please come back tomorrow to read what she has to say about the characters in Going Down South, her writing process, and her literary influences.

Disclosure:  I purchased my copy of Going Down South.


Serena said...

I think this book sounds great and now I want to know what the secrets are! LOL I guess I will have to borrow your copy of the book!

Also, do you find any resemblances between Glover's writing about these mother-daughter relationships and those written about by AMY Tan? Or are they very different, and why?

Anna said...

Just let me know when you want to borrow it. I want it back though! ;)

Amy Tan mostly focuses on the cultural differences between Chinese-born mothers and their American-born daughters, so personally, I don't see much of a resemblance. Then again, I haven't read Amy Tan recently.

Serena said...

gotcha! I just wanted to see what you thought and if there were any comparisons you could make.

Ana S. said...

The book sounds really good. I look forward to the interview.

Ladytink_534 said...

I know a few people who would LOVE this book!

Anonymous said...

Your review really makes me want to read this book ... I'll check back for the author interview (always insightful!)

Anonymous said...

You have me intrigued by this review. I'm going to have to add another one to the TBR list.

The Tome Traveller said...

What a great review! I'll be back to read the interview!

Jeannie said...

This sounds like a wonderful book. My grandma, mom and I all live in the same town and are kind of close. This sounds like us- just with different obstacles to face.

Anonymous said...

Anna, this is a great review. I love books with strong characters, even better when they are females, mothers, daughters. I really enjoy books told from the perspectives of two or three different characters. This is one I'm going to have to read. I can't wait for your interview with the author!

Anna said...

Thanks for all your kind comments about my review! And I'm sure Bonnie will be thrilled when she sees how many people are interested in her book!!

Bonnie Glover said...

Yes, I am so very thrilled. I hope you do try GOING DOWN SOUTH and let me know what you thought thru my website --

Anna - thanks again. You're the best!


Anna said...

It's been my pleasure, Bonnie!

Alessandra said...

Great review! I'd love to read this book now :)

Anna said...

Alessandra: If you read the book, please let me know what you thought about it!

Anonymous said...

Anna - I've linked back to your review. It's very well-written, with hints to the strength of the characters without giving away the plot lines. Have you read Bonnie Glover's first novel?

Anna said...

Thanks, Dawn! No, I haven't read Bonnie's first novel yet, but I've added it to my list!

Darlene said...

Anna, amazing review! This was such a great book. I still miss the story. I'll link up your review to mine too-thanks for doing so with mine.

Anna said...

Thanks, Dar!