Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Dry Grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew

I love southern fiction. I can't remember which book started it. It might have been Velva Jean Learns to Drive by Jennifer Niven. Or it might have been the Big Stone Gap books by Adriana Trigiani. My love was solidified when I read The Help by Katherine Stockett. So when I read about the OKRA picks from Bermudaonion, I was intrigued and found this book. It has been on my hold list for several weeks and I finally got it over a week ago. 

From the publisher: 
In this beautifully written debut, Anna Jean Mayhew offers a riveting depiction of Southern life in the throes of segregation, what it will mean for a young girl on her way to adulthood—and for the woman who means the world to her…
On a scorching day in August 1954, thirteen-year-old Jubie Watts leaves Charlotte, North Carolina, with her family for a Florida vacation. Crammed into the Packard along with Jubie are her three siblings, her mother, and the family’s black maid, Mary Luther. For as long as Jubie can remember, Mary has been there—cooking, cleaning, compensating for her father’s rages and her mother’s benign neglect, and loving Jubie unconditionally.
Bright and curious, Jubie takes note of the anti-integration signs they pass, and of the racial tension that builds as they journey further south. But she could never have predicted the shocking turn their trip will take. Now, in the wake of tragedy, Jubie must confront her parents’ failings and limitations, decide where her own convictions lie, and make the tumultuous leap to independence…
Infused with the intensity of a changing time, here is a story of hope, heartbreak, and the love and courage that can transform us—from child to adult, from wounded to indomitable.

I know I was a decent student in school but personal stories of segregation in the south are so intriguing to me; it seems like there's so much I still don't know about that time in history. Jubie stole my heart right away. She's such a strong girl, holding up against her father's abuse, her mother's sometimes indifference and always wanting to do the right thing by Mary. There's nothing about this book I didn't like except for the tragedy that happens during the story. Jubie's loyalty to Mary just doesn't waver throughout. I admired Jubie's mother so much: four kids at home, even with Mary's help she still seemed so overwhelmed. By the end of the book, she's still on her own feet and still has a firm grip on her family. I can't say enough about the writing either, which alternates between present time and time before they took their trip to Jubie's uncle Taylor's house until the time meshes together until the end of the book. 

The copy I read from my library, had a great Q & A with the author as well as a reading group guide at the end of the book. The author took over 17 years to write the book. I loved this book so much and I only hope it takes much less time to wait for her second book!!

Sorry for the delay in posts here - we had a family emergency last weekend and my reading was put on hold for a few days. Life has stabilized, I think, so I hope to post another review this weekend which is another southern fiction book and local Wisconsin author, Tomorrow River by Lesley Kagen. 


  1. I haven't read this one yet, but I'm anxious to. I've had the pleasure of meeting the author twice and she is just wonderful.

  2. Dear Mrs. Melissa (and Kathy), thank you both for your lovely comments. Melissa, I'm so pleased you liked my book, and grateful for your wonderful post. I particularly like it that you really "got it" about Paula (Jubie's mother). She's the one I had in mind when I asked the question, in my reader's guide, about which character in the book changes the most. She had a pretty cushy life, and wasn't willing to risk it by acknowledging the awful stuff going on around her...but finally, of course, she does. Kathy, I've looked several times at the great video you made, and hope I remembered to thank you for sending it. If I didn't it's because life has been a whirl, promoting the book...and I'm NOT complaining! My best to both of you,