John Grisham could have easily renamed this bestselling series of seven short stories The Seven Deadly Sins. Set in Grisham’s home state of Mississippi, Ford County will ring true to anyone who grew up in the South. I laughed out loud, I cried, I got really ticked off, I was appalled, I got nostalgic and homesick for the South, and I remembered why I left the South – sometimes all within the same story.
A review I read before buying this book said the dialect was difficult to read and unnecessary. I had to laugh after I finished the book because I didn’t even notice a dialect – it read legitimately and authentically to me. Obviously that other reviewer was a (wink, wink) “damn Yankee.”
One thing about the South, folks there are passionate about literally everything. Maybe it’s the combination of high heat and humidity or maybe it’s the tolerance for certain kinds of eccentricity and intolerance for other kinds of eccentricity, but that passion is a trait that definitely rings true throughout these stories.
She called friends and neighbors, and with each replaying of the tragic news various details were altered and enlarged.
Drama in the South is as natural as breathing, and doesn’t even look like drama when you’re there. Southerners are great storytellers, which is a wonderful thing to experience as a child listening to tall tales being told by grownups rocking on the front porch. Of course, we got punished for telling whoppers, which seemed inherently unfair because there’s a very fine line between whoppers and tale tales. The flip side of those tall tales, which Ford County illustrates beautifully, is that there is an element of storytelling that gets added to facts and news as it travels around the community. It all can seem very harmless at the time, unless of course you’re the one they’re telling stories about.
One of the things in the South that I cherish is how much people gather around in support of each other when someone has a sudden personal hardship. In California I saw something similar after large earthquakes and wildfires, and I’ve heard people elsewhere talk about how their community pulled together during disasters. In the South, anything negative that happens to anyone is considered a disaster. Maybe it’s that Southern passionate, dramatic flair coming out again, in addition to an inherent kindness and feeling that everyone in the community really is part of one big family – for better or worse.
“The women gathered in the kitchen and den and gossiped nonstop, while the phone rang constantly. The men huddled outside and smoked cigarettes. Casseroles and cakes began to appear.”
One of my friends said to me once, “Maybe that’s why you’re so nice. You grew up in Mayberry.” It took me years to acknowledge that growing up in the South had very special qualities to it. I wouldn’t take anything for that experience now.
No matter how far away we’ve gone. No matter how glad we were to leave. No matter how much our lives have changed. No matter how carefully our drawl has been discarded. None of that matters in the end.
“’Maybe it’s just the Southern thing. We all come home eventually.’”
Reading Ford County felt like going home to me, the good and the not-so-good parts all wrapped together. When I reached the end, I wanted more and that’s probably one of the best recommendations I can give. Ya’ll come back now, ya hear?
If you’ve read Ford County, I’d love to hear your comments.
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