Verdict: Michael Scott Garvin enraptures readers in this unusual coming of age story that teaches us to find the beauty in ourselves, others, and all of life’s little peculiarities.
It’s 1968 in the deep South. After the death of her grandmother, Poppy Wainwright boards a Greyhound bus to start a new life with her crotchety old Aunt Sookie in Savannah, Georgia. Here, amidst the prim-and-proper Southern hospitalities, we learn that Poppy has brought with her a deep secret–a personal peculiarity–that would certainly ostracize her in her new hometown. But as we learn more about the cast of characters surrounding thirteen-year old Poppy, it becomes clear she’s not the only one in town with something to hide–nor is her secret the most dangerous. And it may be that the very thing that makes her different is what gives her the power to confront adversity.
“My name is Poppy Wainwright.” So begins the tale of our most unlikely heroine. These words drip with self-confidence, a self-confidence that flows throughout the pages of AUNT SOOKIE & ME. Whenever she’s faced with confrontation — whether from her overbearing, opinionated, and politically incorrect Aunt Sookie; her attention-starved, outlandish, and drug-addicted mother; or one of the seemingly perfect, self-righteous, and nosey neighborhood bullies — Poppy never seems to question who she is. “I just want to be who I feel I am in my innards,” she says. A lesson, it seems, the folks of Savannah could stand to learn.
AUNT SOOKIE & ME includes a whole host of characters who each hide a personal drama. As these people enter Poppy’s life, it’s as if their words, their actions, their stories, are intended to set the young heroine off her path. Poppy fights injustice, bigotry, and hatred common to the era and modern society. Yet, she never loses hope, never fails to see the beauty. “There’s far more lovely about than ugly,” she tells her friend Pearl. And her first words of confidence continue to ring true throughout the story: Poppy knows who she is, and it is she who begins the slow progression of changing the definition of societal normalcy in Savannah.
While the main theme of AUNT SOOKIE & ME speaks of social injustices and individual struggles, Garvin does an excellent job sprinkling the right amount of humor throughout his writing. Readers will find themselves immersed in a time-period piece, sympathizing with more than a few characters, meditating on their own peculiarities–but not without cracking a smile. There is a goat, a nose-picker, and a farting old lady after all.
~Stacy Briscoe for IndieReader