The Three Miss Margarets is an irresistible, page-turning exploration of the past and the myriad ways it exerts a hold on the present.
“Rich, funny . . . Fans of Fannie Flagg and Adriana Trigiani, take note. Shaffer has created a little piece of heaven.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer
Miss Peggy, Dr. Maggie, and Miss Li’l Bit, friends and confidantes for nearly a lifetime, find it funny and bewildering that they have become icons in Charles Valley, Georgia. Little does the rest of the town know that beneath the irreproachable façades of its three doyennes lies an explosive decades-old secret that is about to be revealed.
Thirty-odd years ago the three Miss Margarets did something extraordinary, clandestine, and very illegal. Although they are haunted by the night that changed their lives, they believe that their crime was simply a matter of righting an egregious wrong. But when a stranger’s arrival in town and a tragic death open the floodgate of memory, their loyalty, friendship, and honor are tested in ways they could never have imagined—particularly when they have to contend with Laurel Selene, a young woman who has spent her life nursing an alcoholic mother and a huge grudge. Now Laurel is on the verge of discovering what happened the night the three Miss Margarets swore their oath of secrecy. Once she knows, will she reveal the truth about the three women she was raised to despise? Or will she face her own troubled history and put the dark legacy they all share behind them?
Three elderly white Georgia women, all named Margaret, share a deep friendship and a dark secret in this winning debut by actress and television writer Shaffer. For reasons not entirely clear even to her, Laurel Selene McCready has inherited her mother's grudge against "the three Miss Margarets," upstanding icons in rural Charles Valley. Returning home drunk late one night, she spies the three ladies congregating unaccountably in a deserted cabin. The body of Vashti Johnson, a renowned African-American geneticist who had returned to Charles Valley to visit her mother, is soon discovered in the cabin, prompting an investigation by the police, as well as by Laurel Selene and her new boyfriend Josh, a journalist who's writing a book about Vashti. As the three Miss Margarets struggle with how much to reveal about Vashti's life and death, they also reflect on their own longtime intimacy and on the race hatred in their community that led, decades ago, to a series of ghastly crimes. Shaffer's achievement is making each Miss Margaret a complex character with a fiercely guarded interior life. She doesn't belabor the social forces that defined the lives of these doyennes; instead, she gradually reveals Dr. Maggie Harris's lesbian love life, Margaret (Li'l Bit) Hanning's decadelong affair with a redneck gardener and Peggy Garrison's embattled domestic arrangement. Sometimes Shaffer leans too much on heavy-handed foreshadowing, and the secondary characters are thin, especially Laurel Selene and Josh. Yet the three Miss Margarets are wholly imagined, rich creations whose reticence speaks volumes about their time and place.
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The Three Miss Margarets