With a character name like Vidalia, I knew I was reading a Southern novel and so I prepared for some fairly scary scenes and painful moments. MY SWEET VIDALIA was the retelling of a classic Southern scenario of poverty; racism and ignorance with a few bright and optimistic characters that kept the book moving forward and offered some relief from the negative environment of the 1950s.
The writing was very good and the dialect was well captured. I was glad that the book did not drag out into epic dimensions and Vidalia did find a redemptive quality in the end of the story to express and to prove herself to be compassionate and not so “dumb” as her background would lead you to believe. Her capacity to grow and develop kept me reading all the way through. Whew! That was a relief.
I liked the story and felt the discomfort of being outside the events and not being able to cajole or persuade Vidalia to move on and let go of her trials. How does one move someone out of such ignorance when they do not know any better? In the beginning of the story, young Vidalia falls in love with a slimy fellow who plays on her naiveté, then marries her when she becomes pregnant and beats her growing baby out of her womb too early for survival. Vidalia finds a way to keep her baby with her through the whole story and this “spirit child” becomes her support system.
On the cover of the book Susan Crawford, author of The Pocket Wife says
“ From its beautiful first words to its satisfying ending, MY SWEET VIDALIA is a unique, enchanting read. Exquisite language, a cast of robust characters, and a solid and compelling plot keep readers captivated as Mantella straddles the thin line between poetry and prose, reality and either, fragility and strength. With a deft and gentle hand, she navigates us through the travails of an impoverished young mother guided by her intrepid spirit child.”
I would place this story high up on the scale of good reads and a great weekend of escape reading, which took me back to my school days in the Deep South. It was still a relief to leave these characters back in the 1950s and early 60s and find comfort in my more progressive environment of home. I worked as a social worker in the South in the 70s and 80s and I am hard pressed to even think about returning for a visit. I am sure my experiences prejudiced my reading of this story.
TLC Book Tours sent me a copy of this well-written story for review.
From the cover:
“A transplant to the South, Deborah Mantella has lived and taught in various cities in the Northeast and the Midwest. Now a resident of Georgia she lives outside Atlanta with her husband. Mantella is a member of the Atlanta Writers Club, the Author’s Guild, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and illustrators. This is her first novel.”