How did Calvin know these guns?
"But your daddy's favorites are these two: The Webley Mark IV and Mark 5. These here was officers' guns in World War I that his daddy brought back from the war, hidden in a box of silverware."
Later, Phil couldn't remember when Cal had left, and knew he must have drunk three bottles by himself. That night he dreamed of bears and wars and guns, and fathers who treasure beautiful old things.
Not their sons.
This novel starts in the present - late 1980s - where Mary Jane "Mojo" Mullinax is in the hospital, badly beaten up. It then spools us back so that we can learn about her mother and her family history, and it's interesting to know the story behind the stories. I was also surprised to learn that this is the author's debut novel, as it was written beautifully and will keep you captivated throughout its entirety.
Mary Jane Hatcher--everyone calls her Mojo--is beat up bad. She's in the ICU of Phoebe Putney, the largest hospital in South Georgia, barely able to talk. How Mojo goes from being that skinny little girl in Nolan, a small forgotten town along the Flint River, to the young woman now fighting for her life is where this story begins and ends.
Mojo, her mama Delores and her Uncle Calvin Mullinax, like most folks in Nolan, have just tried to make the best of it. Of course, people aren't always what they seem and Phil Foster--the handsome, spoiled son of the richest man in the county--is no exception.
As the story of the Mullinax family unfolds, Mojo discovers a family's legacy can be many things: a piece of earth, a familiar dwelling, a shared bond. And although she doesn't know why she feels such a bond with Phil Foster, it is there all the same, family or not. And she likes to think we all have us a fresh start. Like her mama always said, the past is all just water under the bridge. Mojo, after going to hell and back, finally comes to understand what that means.
The reader will learn about Mojo's mother, Delores, and how she ended up pregnant with Mojo, as well as her uncle, Cal, and how everyone's stories are entertwined. Mojo's father, Phil, never knew that he was her father, as well, because Delores kept it a secret; Phil's father was Cal's former employer, and he threatened Delores to break off her relationship with Phil, otherwise he would revoke the money that Cal had received in a settlement from his company for disability.
The decision to start at the end, for the most part, and slowly bring the story back up to the present was an interesting one by the author. I believe that overall it did work, but I found myself wanting to flip back to the front of the book (which I unfortunately couldn't, since I had it in PDF form and it would have taken forever) throughout the novel to re-read the beginning and see if I could try and connect the dots. I think A Southern Place would make a great movie, too, because it's one of those "epic" tales that span centuries and generations; it would be interesting to think of my ideal casting for it, too.
4 stars out of 5.
*Disclosure: I was given an e-copy of this novel for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.
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