Sunday, September 6, 2015

Miss Dreamsville and the Lost Heiress of Collier County

KAuthor:  Amy Hill Hearth
Genre:  Literary Fiction/Drama

Paperback, e book
ISBN #:  9781476765747
Atria Books
320 Pages
$8.84 Amazon; $11.99 Kindle
September 8, 2015

Five Stars

In this sequel to Amy Hill Hearth's "funny and charming" (Publisher's Weekly) debut novel, Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women's Literary Society, the eponymous book club reunites one year later, in the late summer of 1964.
Their mission: to fight a large development along the tidal river where member Robbie-Lee grew up and where his mother, Dolores Simpson, a former stripper turned alligator hunter, still lives in a fishing shack.

The developer is Darryl Norwood, ex-husband of narrator Dora Witherspoon, who returns to Collier County to assist in the battle.  An old land deed, the discovery that one of the key characters has been using a false name, and a dramatic court hearing are just a few of the highlights.  Not to mention the reappearance of the Ghost of Seminole Joe.

Just as Hearth's debut explored the ways we can find a sense of belonging in other people, her latest novel shows how closely tied each of us is to our sense of home - and the conflicts that can arise when our idea of that home becomes threatened.  For Darryl, the river is a place ripe for development.  For Dora, who's known as the Turtle Lady because she rescues Everglades "snappers," it's a place that belongs to the critters.  And for Dolores, former stripper, it's a place to hide from the world...

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In the first Miss Dreamsville, we learned about Jackie Hart, a transplant from Boston, and her struggle to fit in with the people of the Florida Everglades.  In her attempt to find a place to be, she started the Collier County Literary Society, and became Miss Dreamsville for the residents.

In this book, which takes place the following year of 1964, we learn about another of the members of that book club - Eudora Welty Witherspoon, known to all as Dora.  The story begins where the last ended, when Jackie urged Dora to go and find out more about 'her people,' where she came from, and Dora has been doing exactly that in Jackson, Mississippi.  But one day Dora receives a telegram from home.  The telegram is from Dolores Simpson, who lives in an old shack on the edge of the Everglades.  It simply reads that there's trouble, and Dora needs to come home now.

Borrowing money from her landlady, she boards a bus back home to Collier County with dread filling her, not knowing what the trouble may be.  When she arrives at Dolores' shack, Dora discovers the trouble is worse than she thought.  Her ex-husband Darryl is back in town, and he's going to build a housing development right where Dolores' shack sits, and it has divided the town into two camps:  those that want it, and those that don't.

So Dora, not knowing what to do, not wanting to face Darryl alone, and not wanting to think about what might or even could happen, turns to her friends from the book club - Jackie, Plain Jane, and Mrs. Bailey-White.  (Of the remaining members, Dolores' son Robbie-Lee (who is also Dora's best friend), is in New York, and Priscilla is in college; and Miss Lansbury, the librarian, has retired.

But here we have another dilemma:  Jackie, Plain Jane and Mrs. Bailey-White are taking care of Priscilla's little girl while Priscilla is in college.  While it shouldn't be a problem, and wouldn't today, the crux of the matter is that Priscilla is black, and in the Old South, it was.  And with Jackie's tendency to act as if she were still in Boston, she sometimes forgets that things don't work the same way in the South as they do in the North, and it takes longer for life to change.  She might not be happy about it, she doesn't like it, but she is learning to understand.

Then there's Judd, Jackie's son, who has been taking care of Dora's home and turtles while Dora's been out of town; and thirteen-year-old Judd is beginning to grow up, while Jackie's husband Ted is  beginning to resent his time working away from home when he knows he should be with his family.

Dora finds herself in the center of change, confused about what she learned and what she still needs to learn, not sure if she can share with her friends, but still through it all realizes that in deciding to help Dolores - who has never asked for help from anyone - she will also be helping herself.  

I have found that there are some books you can read and wish you hadn't; others you can read and be happy you read them; still others you will set aside and know that you will read again; and then there are books that only need to be read once to remain with your forever.  This is one of those books.  In the end, there are secrets in the Glades, as there are everywhere in life.  Some are better off never being known.  Some need to be told to end a story.  Sometimes the secrets don't matter.  But if you're lucky, you find out what really does.  Highly recommended.   


Review of Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women's Literary Society:  http://www.joannesbooks.blogspot.com/2013/03/miss-dreamsville-and-collier-county.html



                                 

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