I must confess the draw to this book was its cover art – the quirkiness of it was appealing. Beyond that, obviously I thought the story sounded full of promise and one or two rave reviews later and, voilà curiosity was stirred. Never having read anything by Meg Moseley before, how the story would read was a mystery. Over the three person point of view that unfolds, there are interesting perspectives and even more unique characters. There’s brokenhearted Tish whose past is all about “hanging on” to what could-have-been; antiques dealer George, a man with a very miniature nuisance and the adorable though immature Melanie (yes, you guessed it, her mother is a Gone with the Wind fan!) – a young woman shunned for past indiscretions. 3o chapters and 300-hundred-some pages later, all of the characters were fully explored, as individuals. In fact, it’s probably been a long while since I read a novel in which there was more than a boy-girl switch off that elected for such an easy-going multi-view POV prose; the changes transition smoothly, almost seamlessly from one voice to the next and it was a fun trip down South to meet them all.
Reminding me a lot of a favorite television show, the setting is very “small-town” and sometimes it sets up as being old-fashioned (with only the most charming results) since each of the three main characters are struggling with the past in some way or another. Setting aside Meg’s sensitive and soft narratives, she also expertly wove into the story some fascinating historical lessons – all of which are actually inspiring in one way or another. Changing the past is not something Tish is capable of doing and yet for years she lived cocooned in the safety of a past. Once she learns that her family name is shadowed in scandal, only then does she ever so slowly emerge from the safety of that net – from being shunned for the sins of ancestors, she came into her own learning that while reality (the here and now) is not perfect, it’s what you make of it that carves out a chance at happiness. The sweetness between Tish and Melanie – or “Mel,” is a precious relationship. Meg does a stupendous job with it. Full of flaws and disagreements, the scenes of them together bond as that of a sister’s love and it sees all the highs and lows such a relationship experiences; there’s screaming fights (the older sister represented in Tish) and at the end of the day, always love and protection. Likewise Mel’s struggle becomes more real and easy to accept where once the reader was only skeptical.
Cons: Anyone searching for a romance will be disappointed. George and Tish may be interesting as single characters (not many guys can still seem “cool” while carrying around a small dog – in fact it’s usually a turn-off) however as a romantic counterpart, I didn’t really enjoy he and Tish together. Sure both are likable and his affection for her seemed genuine but the sparks just weren’t there. One scene opens possibilities but beyond that, it’s pretty empty…
The spiritual takeaway is rather tepid. Other than a mention or two of finding a church and Mel’s childlike whispered prayers, I never felt the pull of Christianity. Sometimes, this doesn’t bother me depending on the setting or characters, other times it does. In this case, I wanted more from Tish and George’s – more for their spiritual well-being, because I think they deserved that.
Pacing was duller than not until approximately 1/3 of the way through the book.
Conclusion: Given the focus and impressive “voices” of the characters, perhaps there is enough content to distract from the flaws. True to the Southern lifestyles, the novel started out slowly, taking its sweet time to pull everyone together. Until it does, it isn’t a page-turner because we counted on “more.” Once everyone meets, things start to pick up and we pick sides – choosing who we trust and finding out not everyone is as forgiving as they should be. Second chances and a definite flow of all things Southern is what Gone South is all about. Where it might not have been my favorite novel of the year, it’s got some really nice moments and I’ve read some glowing reviews of the book. Bravo to Meg Mosley for skirting around some of the “obvious” clichés and taking chances of her own.
Coming Next from Meg Moseley: When Laura Gantt returns to Georgia to handle her late mother’s estate, she hears a startling rumor—that her father staged his drowning years ago and has recently been spotted roaming the mountains.
With the help of her former high school sweetheart, Laura searches for the truth. But will what they find destroy their rekindled feelings?
Synopsis: Leaving frosty Michigan for the Deep South was never a blip in the simple plans Tish McComb imagined for her life, dreams of marriage and family that were dashed five years earlier in a tragic accident. Now an opportunity to buy her great-great-great-grandparents’ Civil War era home beckons Tish to Noble, Alabama, a Southern town in every sense of the word. She wonders if God has given her a new dream— the old house filled with friends, her vintage percolator bubbling on the sideboard.
When Tish discovers that McCombs aren’t welcome in town, she feels like a Yankee behind enemy lines. Only local antiques dealer George Zorbas seems willing to give her a chance. What’s a lonely outcast to do but take in Noble’s resident prodigal, Melanie Hamilton, and hope that the two can find some much needed acceptance in each other.
Problem is, old habits die hard, and Mel is quite set in her destructive ways. With Melanie blocked from going home, Tish must try to manage her incorrigible houseguest as she attempts to prove her own worth in a town that seems to have forgotten that every sinner needs God-given mercy, love and forgiveness.
With thanks to Blogging for Books and the publisher for providing a complimentary copy of this book for reviewing purposes