by Sandra Dallas
Category: Fiction / Historical
320 pages; ISBN: 0312336195
Rating: 9/10 (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Harriet Klausner
St. Martin’s, Apr 2005, $23.95, 320 pp.
In 1933 Nora Bondurant leaves her hometown of Denver to take over the pre-Civil War Avoca mansion that her recently murdered Aunt Amalia left her. Interestingly Nora did not know of the existence of her aunt as her parents never mentioned that her father had a sister or that she came from Natchez. Nora first learned of Amalia when a lawyer sent her a letter informing her she of her inheritance. In Natchez she learns that Amalia was killed by a courting neighbor in a murder suicide.
Nora finds the change of scenery welcoming as she hides from feelings of guilt caused by her divorce from Tate and subsequent death of her ex spouse back in Denver. Simultaneously, she also feels somewhat like an outsider since no one will share much about her aunt, her lover who allegedly killed her, or their relationship. For that matter she knows little about this side of the family and no one is forthcoming with information. Still Natchez begins to feel like home due to Ezra, Aunt Polly, and others including the goats.
The story line provides an intense perusal of Depression Era Mississippi especially “slaves” through the eyes of a Rocky Mountain expatriate. The murder-suicide adds interesting suspense as Nora wants to know more about her previously unknown aunt, but that takes a back seat to the deep scrutiny of 1930s Deep South relationships. Fans will cherish this powerful historical fiction and seek other works by Ms. Dallas (see THE PERSIAN PICKLE CLUB and BUSTER MIDNIGHT'S CAFÉ).
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