Back in 2004 I lived for little over a year in Atlanta, Georgia and ever since I’ve been an enthusiast of southern literature, cuisine and culture. It’s strange even to me the power of the connection because I struggle to find any similarities between my background and my experiences in Dixieland.

For instance, until then I’d never been so aware of my gender, skin color, social class and (lack of) religion.  By itself this was already a fascinating experience – you should have seen me for the first time in my life filling out an official document with my ethnicity: was I Caucasian? Or perhaps Latino since Portugal is part of Europe’s Latino culture? And what’s an “Irish traveler”?! Add to that sweet ice tea and peach cobbler, a hay ride in Tennessee, listening to improvised blues is a tinny bar off Bourbon Street and bluegrass in a local BBQ, being called to speak about myself at an all-black Southern-Baptist congregation, and it’s not hard to imagine why I fell in love with the place. I don’t know if it was because I was young or a foreigner or a woman, but no one beats Southerners when it comes to kindness to strangers.

One of the first things I did when I arrived was become member of the Margaret Mitchell House, which is also the Center for Southern Literature (the funny thing is, I only read Gone With the Wind last summer…). I also joined the Marietta Bookcrossing Group and thus begun my immersion in Southern Literature. I read Tennessee Williams, Pat Conroy, Barbara Kingsolver, Mark Twain and Harper Lee, got introduced to the Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, the Whistle Stop Café, the Secret Life of Bees and the Garden of Good and Evil. I also discovered the fabulous world of garage sales, yard sales and each-bag-of-books-for-5-dollars sales – I was a happy cookie 🙂

All of these good memories came back recently while reading “Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man” by Fannie Flagg, which is about a young girl growing up in rural Mississippi in the 50s. The story is told through journal entries, which suits Daisy’s witty personality and sharp observations. Soon after the book starts, Daisy moves from small-town Jackson to the even smaller community of Gulf Coast Shell Beach, at the End of the Road of the South. As with most good southern literature, Daisy is surrounded to a group of exotic characters, from drinker Jimmy Snow, who uses his crop-dusting plane for carrying out revenge to Mrs. Dot, the leader of the local Jr. Debutante club (“Sincerity is as valuable as radium!”), not to mention her own father, always ready for the new  infallible scheme to make money, such as turning Daisy into a miracle child through a fake resurrection. It’s impossible not to laugh out loud several times.

Although still a fine specimen of Fannie Flagg’s style – good fun and heart warming – I didn’t enjoy it as much as I did her others (Fried Green Tomatoes, Welcome to the World, Baby Girl). She was trying to keep the humor in the story while introducing serious issues like alcoholism, rape, teen pregnancy and insanity, but sometimes my laughter had to stop too abruptly. Also, certain episodes were also just waaaay too over the top to be believable even for a Southern small town (and that’s saying a lot!). The story could have been simpler but more touching if the reader wasn’t asked to suspend its disbelief quiet so often.

Despite that, I’m still looking forward to Flagg’s “Standing in Rainbow2 which is waiting in the TBR pile.

Hope y’all have a good weekend!