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This was an extremely well written book. First, the story itself is excellent. The characters are complex and funny. They manage to be both totally messed up and entirely relatable. The book is actually pretty dark, with some truely disturbing scenes, but still a laugh out loud funny romp through the perspective of a troubled, likable, wicked, redeemable heroine. They are all- especially the protagonist- deeply flawed, and all the more likable for it. In the end, they are redeemable, despite the insanely messed up things they have done. Even the worst among them- the villan, as it were- is not so straightforwardly bad as all that, though he is plenty bad enough.
I am pretty solidly agnostic and a true apostate. I don't usually like books with heavy religious themes or characters (they tend to be preachy and have 'messages' you are supposed to learn from). For these characters, religion is woven into the fabric of who they are. I didn't find it in any way intrusive. It just is part of the characters. It's important to the story but it's not Christian fiction by any means, and, for me, I really found myself appriciating the approach to religion by flawed characters who do care about their religion, but except for "the Baptist Ladies Auxiliary for plaguing your children to death in the name of the Lord", they mostly approach it with genuine caring without sounding too terribly righteous or hypocritical- a heavy task for the kind of truely fantastic sinners most everybody in the book is.
The writing is great. The author has a beautiful way with words. You can see Alabama. You can see the development of each person, the flashbacks drawn carefully to move you perfectly through this story. All throughout, you see everyone complexly and richly woven, the people and the places.
The narration was also fabulous. I usually dislike southern accents narrated. Too often they sound horribly fake or wildly overblown. This narrator sounded like she was from Alabama (I say without any idea where she might actually be from). She caught the dry tones of the humor and the truely deep sadness and the moments of frozen emptiness. She was great.
So my major criticism of this book was the audio production. The thing is this: if I want music to cue me that this moment is supposed to be suspensful/creepy/heart-warming/dramatic, I will watch T.V. If my books need the music to cue me into the mood of a scene, they are too badly written to read. This book was not badly written. We all get when it's suspensful/creepy/heart-warming/dramatic. That is what a good author does. So all the random cuts of frankly inexplicable music did was distract me from an otherwise excellent audio book.
18 of 18 people found this review helpful
I downloaded this on a whim and was so glad I did. I loved the Southern characters, the story, as well as the narration. After I finished it I had to wait a day or so before starting another book because the story kept replaying in my mind. It's not classic literature but it's a great read for summer vacation.
14 of 14 people found this review helpful
What did you like best about this story?
To my mind this has the makings of a modern classic. Both human nature and southern culture are looked at deeply critically and with love. It's well narrated with an unforced southern accent that helped me get caught up in the plot. This is a story of surprises, secrets wrapped in secrets, deep prejudices, complex characters and steel magnolias. I found it in turns funny and moving, haunting, romantic and wise. It will stay with me.