Miss Julia, a recently bereaved and newly wealthy widow, is only slightly bemused when one Hazel Marie Puckett appears at her door with a youngster in tow and unceremoniously announces that the child is the bastard son of Miss Julia's late husband. Suddenly, this longtime church member and pillar of her small Southern community finds herself in the center of an unseemly scandal-and the guardian of a wan nine-year-old whose mere presence turns her life upside down.
With razor-sharp wit and perfect "Steel Magnolia" poise, Miss Julia speaks her mind indeed-about a robbery, a kidnapping, and the other disgraceful events precipitated by her husband's death. Fast-paced and charming, with a sure sense of comic drama, a cast of crazy characters, and a strong Southern cadence, Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind will delight readers from first page to last.
Charming Southern eccentrics breathe life into a predictable story of a proper Presbyterian wife ("Miss Julia") who finds her true self after the sudden death of her husband of 44 years, wealthy but parsimonious banker Wesley Lloyd Springer. Julia is becoming accustomed to the role of rich widow when another shock intrudes: Hazel Marie Puckett appears on the front porch wearing "heels too high, a dress too short, and hair too yellow," with a nine-year-old boy in tow whose "eyes were so much like Wesley Lloyd's it was like looking at her husband before she ever met him." Hazel Marie is on her way to beauty school in Raleigh, N.C., since Wesley senior left no provision for her support, and Miss Julia realizes that she must take her husband's "last legacy" into her home. Meanwhile, her inheritance attracts a variety of small-town opportunists, beginning with Pastor Ledbetter, who insinuates that her departed husband planned to leave his money to the church, then enlists the aid of "Christian psychologist" Dr. Fred Fowler to prove Miss Julia's incompetence in a court of law. Ross's characters resist their stereotypical outlines--Miss Julia's black maid, Lillian, might talk like a character from Gone with the Wind, but she provides the strategy for retrieving Little Lloyd Jr. when he's abducted by Hazel Marie's shifty uncle, Brother Vern, a televangelist who also has designs on Miss Julia's money. Miss Julia's luck turns when, ransacking the pantry for Lillian's cache of Oreos, she comes across a Winn-Dixie sack secreted by Little Lloyd, which contains a new will and testament from the dead Lloyd Sr. Along with its homespun appeal, the novel offers an interesting take on gender, race and family in the South; it's fast-paced and funny despite Ross's persistent asides to readers and reference to serious issues (the church's stance on homosexuality and abortion). In the end, Miss Julia's prim self-absorption gives way and she begins to "feel like a real person, saying what she was thinking instead of packing it down inside."
Humor is lovely and identifiable. Characters you will adore. Story pace never gets slow. Can’t wait to read the next book in this series.
Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind--indeed She does
I first read this delightful novel several years ago and have just re-read it. I actually read it in two days this time and thoroughly enjoyed every word.
Ann B Ross is a writer who connects with the human spirit of her readers. Even though this is fiction, having lived in NC for twenty-five years every word could be true and factual.
I am so thankful I'm going to be able to read (or re-read some) of this series of Miss Julia books. Thank you Ann B Ross for sharing your gift with all of us.