The book has been compared has reminded readers of the works of Pat Conroy, and if you know anything about Southern novels then you know that is the highest praise. You won’t be disappointed.
Mourning Dove isn’t just a book about family in the South. It’s about the reality of a family in the South. There are many dramatizations of what people believe life is like here in the Southern part of the US, but unless you lived it, you don’t know it. Claire Fullerton lived it. The author and I have had exchanges in the past about commonalities in our lives to the point that I know she is the real deal. She grew up a Memphis girl while I lived just 2 hours away in Tupelo, MS.
One thing about Southern life is there are layers. Depending on who you are socializing with will determine which layer you allow to show. That’s for your own protection. You learn this quickly to survive, not only in Southern society but in your own family. If you aren’t like your blood then you in more trouble than you would be at any other point in time. This is just an observation I’m throwing in here.
Mourning Dove finds Posey, moving back to Memphis, the city of her birth with her two children. The story is told through the voice of Millie, the youngest child. She’s the quiet one who looks up to her charismatic brother, Finley. The children are thrown into a world totally alien to their Minnesota home when they set foot in Memphis, a city where old society still looks to generational lines to help determine societal prestige.
Posey, sets out to find a new husband and ends up catching the Colonel, a totally inappropriate match for a husband only because of his place in society in the hopes it will continue to help her and assure her children will not fall from grace. The problem is, this leaves her children without true parents. Posey mothers occasionally but it doesn’t really help her children.
The star of the show is Finley, the big brother that has been given almost god like qualities by Millie in his perfection. His talent, his intellect, his abilities to move people. The things she cannot do. But just as a god, he is just out of reach in his kinetic life of always pushing higher and higher to next level of his creativity. His time in Charlottesville to attend university and expanding his music lies perfectly with the music scene of the day for a certain element that continued in university towns on into the 80s.
But without Finley, Millie has to fend for herself in the aristocratic society of her mother’s upbringing. He was her navigator of Memphis, her protector of sorts.
If you want to know the real South of the 1970s, read Mourning Dove. Much like Claire Fullerton’s masterpiece, Dancing to an Irish Reel, you get atmosphere, emotions, characters, not only the main but a wonderful supporting cast, which very much matches what you find in the South. You also find yourself pulled in to the landscape and forget you exist in a present. You are present in the past.
Preorder Mourning Dove on Amazon by clicking HERE before June 29,