The Sweet Taste of Muscadines is a beautifully written story by Pamela Terry. Her prose about being Southern immediately captured my attention. She says “Growing up in the South is not for the faint of heart. An enigmatic place at the best of times, it is paradoxical to the core.” Truer words have not been spoken!
This novel is about Lila Bruce Breedlove who left her small hometown of Wesleyan, Georgia when she was 18 and never wanted to go back. Her father, who had been a Baptist minister, died during the Vietnam War. After his death, her mother Geneva was very distant. When the novel starts, Lila is a widow, living on an island in Maine. She owns a successful weaving business. Likewise, her younger brother, Henry, also left Georgia for college. Because of his homosexuality, he never felt comfortable returning. He owns an art gallery in Rhode Island where he lives with his partner, Andrew. Their younger sister, Abigail, had always been their mother’s favorite child. Abigail remained in Wesleyan and considered Geneva her best friend.
One day, Lila and Henry get a call from Abigail telling them that their mother had died unexpectedly. Abigail found Geneva lying inside an old muscadine arbor holding a spoon. When Lila and Henry return to Wesleyan, they must deal with Abigail’s bizarre behavior, as well as a startling discovery they dig up inside the muscadine arbor. Once they realize what they knew of their mother and father had been a lie, the two of them travel to Scotland to find the answers to the questions raised by the long-buried secrets.
This story is about having a sense of home and a feeling of belonging to your ancestral roots. It also deals with family love, family secrets, saving face, and forgiveness. Pamela Terry is a gifted storyteller. This is the first of what I hope is many novels by her.
4-Stars. I would not recommend this to a book club where members are uncomfortable with discussing homosexuality.
Thank you to NetGalley and to Ballentine Books (Penguin/Random House) for allowing me to have an advanced copy of this book. It is expected to be published on March 16, 20201.
I am not supposed to quote from unpublished works, but I just loved the author’s descriptions of the South. Now I am really going to cheat and give another quote. I laughed out loud when I read this line:
“When I was growing up, Jungle Gardenia was the favorite perfume of every older Southern woman I knew.”
Can anybody relate?? I was so proud when I was able to buy my first bottle in the early 1970s.