Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir

Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir

Frances Mayes

Language: English

Pages: 352

ISBN: 0307885925

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


A lyrical and evocative memoir from Frances Mayes, the Bard of Tuscany, about coming of age in the Deep South and the region’s powerful influence on her life.

The author of three beloved books about her life in Italy, including Under the Tuscan Sun and Every Day in Tuscany, Frances Mayes revisits the turning points that defined her early years in Fitzgerald, Georgia. With her signature style and grace, Mayes explores the power of landscape, the idea of home, and the lasting force of a chaotic and loving family.

From her years as a spirited, secretive child, through her university studies—a period of exquisite freedom that imbued her with a profound appreciation of friendship and a love of travel—to her escape to a new life in California, Mayes exuberantly recreates the intense relationships of her past, recounting the bitter and sweet stories of her complicated family: her beautiful yet fragile mother, Frankye; her unpredictable father, Garbert; Daddy Jack, whose life Garbert saved; grandmother Mother Mayes; and the family maid, Frances’s confidant Willie Bell.

Under Magnolia is a searingly honest, humorous, and moving ode to family and place, and a thoughtful meditation on the ways they define us, or cause us to define ourselves. With acute sensory language, Mayes relishes the sweetness of the South, the smells and tastes at her family table, the fragrance of her hometown trees, and writes an unforgettable story of a girl whose perspicacity and dawning self-knowledge lead her out of the South and into the rest of the world, and then to a profound return home.

From the Hardcover edition.

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twirl in, patent leather shoes with a button on the side strap, a white angora sweater? I think of Willie Bell’s, chickens scratching under the porch, and how dark it is beyond her screen door with its balls of cotton stuck on with bobby pins to catch the flies. Even from there the smell of boiling turnip greens smacks you in the face. After the two-thirty bell, I want to play on the swings but I’m supposed to go straight home. I can feel how cold the blue bars of the jungle gym would be if I

an application. When he asked Drew’s middle name, Drew replied “none,” and my father understood him to say “Nome.” So, on greeting ever after, he always says, “Drew who?” and Drew replies, “Drew NOME Hill, Cap’n, Drew NOME Hill,” and laughs. Drew could lift the proverbial bale of cotton on his shoulder. He was blue eyed, a “high yellow,” enormously strong. He could have mashed my father into the ground with his fist. I remember him later, crying at my father’s funeral, telling me how good the

bloody cold and no one I know has even ridden by. “Sugar, you better go in and say good-bye to your daddy. They don’t think he’s going to make it,” my uncle said, as though this were news. My mother leans onto the foot of the bed and squeezes the daylights out of my hand. Daddy Jack stands at the door mopping his bald head with his handkerchief: his son, the one he’d worked with every day, the one who’d proved with blood his astounding bravery. The nurse says, “Mr. Mayes, here’s Frances, do you

bloody cold and no one I know has even ridden by. “Sugar, you better go in and say good-bye to your daddy. They don’t think he’s going to make it,” my uncle said, as though this were news. My mother leans onto the foot of the bed and squeezes the daylights out of my hand. Daddy Jack stands at the door mopping his bald head with his handkerchief: his son, the one he’d worked with every day, the one who’d proved with blood his astounding bravery. The nurse says, “Mr. Mayes, here’s Frances, do you

been as bad as freshman year, staring out my fifth-floor dormer window at bare trees, the river hidden, and no clue where I’d been or was going. As soon as The Pill hit, R-M as it reigned, was lost. The truly revolutionary consequences of women having control over their own bodies kicked those date parlor doors closed, ripped up those destination slips, put those ladies in Charlottesville with their white toast, teapots, and emery-board towels out of business forever. As preservers of The Way,

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