This is the story of Virginia Turner Ballard, know to her North Carolina relatives as Ginny Sue. It's also the story of her mother, her grandmother, her great aunts, her closest cousin--three generations of women who gather around Virginia to help her at the end of a hard pregnancy, to tend to her, to help her prepare for the fourth generation. This kind of family attendance, this kind of tending to, is Southern to the core, offering, as it does, the occasion for reviving and trading entwined family stories. Tending to Virginia is a novel of one family's most important stories--how they happened, how they were perceived, how they were remembered, how their truth is revealed. In the end, an eruption of family confessions becomes revelation--revelation as legacy, passed down among a family's women; revelation as a family's gift in celebration of growing up, a process Jill McCorkle knows lasts into old age. In her characterizations of these vivid women playing out their generational roles in the contemporary South, McCorkle presents us with a powerful insight--that the strongest family bonds are, for better or worse, as often created by what is held back as by what is spoken.
Letting go is the theme of McCorkle's funny, wise and accomplished third novel, following The Cheer Leader and July 7th. Virginia Suzanne Ballard is 28 years old, eight months pregnant and not at all sure she wants to leave her family and move "North'' (to Richmond) with her young lawyer husband. When stricken with toxemia, Ginny Sue is tended for a week by three generations of her family's women: Her favored grandmother Emily and great-aunt Lena, cantakerous and large-hearted widows not always willing to distinguish between past and present; her mother Hannah with her cousin Madge; and her own contemporary cousin Cindy, a brash and vulnerable, quick-spoken divorcee. Conversation among the women is woven of memories and half-remembered recollections, current misunderstandings, wishes, disappointments and a dark secret concerning Cindy's father, a Chevrolet salesman with an Egyptian obsession., With a sure touch and impeccable comic timing, McCorkle leads her characters to revelations and emotional relief during an afternoon when a tornado adds its own bit of havoc. As the family's history emerges from a flood of interrelated experiences, the narrative achieves coherent drama. This novel confirms McCorkle's place among other talented Southern storytellers. 25,000 first printing.