Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Review: The Three Miss Margarets
The Three Miss Margarets by Louise Shaffer
Reasons for reading: Southern lit; Number title for Triple 8 Challenge
Summary: "Thirty-odd years ago the three Miss Margarets did something extraordinary, clandestine, and very illegal. Although their lives are haunted by the night that changed their lives, they believe that their crime was simply a matter of righting an egregious wrong. But when a stranger’s arrival in town and a tragic death open the floodgate of memory, their loyalty, friendship, and honor are tested in ways they could never have imagined."
First line: "She'd gone to bed with her shoes on, and not by accident."
My thoughts: The three Miss Margarets are 80-ish Dr. Maggie, 70-ish Miss L'il Bit, and 60-ish Miss Peggy. The first two come from fine old families in Charles Valley, GA and Miss Peggy married into the Garrison family, for whom almost everything in the area is named. Circumstances decades ago forged a strond bond among the three women, and it's about to be tested.
This was a really interesting book. I really enjoyed that it had so many different stories to tell - about each of the Miss Margarets' lives, about an amazing black girl and her family, about another girl whose family was torn apart by their lie, and about the mighty Garrison family, especially its ruthless last son, Grady. And, the main one, about the tragic events that bind all of these stories together.
Each Miss Margaret is a fully imagined character, bound together by the past and by their own eccentricities. Depending on which Miss Margaret is speaking, they're either weird or outsiders or odd. They're at once completely part of their Southern world of 30 years ago while also being very rebellious - Maggie became a doctor and started out by treating poor black patients, L'il Bit was all but orphaned and inherited her house and fortune and 17, and Peggy rose above her humble station to marry into the most important family in the region and outlive all of the Garrisons.
It also explores some interesting moral questions. Can you justify hurting one family to save another? If someone deserves to be punished, does it matter how that punishment comes about? Are some people more deserving of being saved than others?