Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Review: My Sweet Vidalia

Summary: On July 4, 1955, in rural Georgia, an act of violence threatens the life of Vidalia Lee Kandal’s pre-born daughter. Despite the direst of circumstances, the spirit of Vidalia’s lost child refuses to leave her ill-equipped young mother’s side. For as long as she is needed—through additional troublesome pregnancies, through poverty, spousal abuse, and agonizing betrayals—Cieli Mae, the determined spirit child, narrates their journey. Serving as a safe place and sounding board for Vidalia’s innermost thoughts and confusions, lending a strength to her momma’s emerging voice, Cieli Mae provides her own brand of comfort and encouragement, all the while honoring the restrictions imposed by her own otherworldly status. Vidalia finds further support in such unlikely relations and townsfolk as Doc Feldman, Gamma Gert and her Wild Women of God, and most particularly in Ruby Pearl Banks, the wise, kind, and courageous church lady, who has suffered her own share of heartache in their small Southern town of yesteryear’s prejudices and presumptions. 

My Sweet Vidalia is wise and witty, outstanding for its use of vibrant, poetic language and understated Southern dialect, as well as Mantella’s clear-eyed observations of “race relations” as “human relations,” a cast of unforgettable characters, an in-depth exploration of the ties that bind, and its creative perspective. My Sweet Vidalia is a rare, wonderful, and complex look at hope, strength, the unparalleled power of unconditional love, and a young mother’s refusal to give up. -- Turner Publishing

I was so excited when I received a surprise copy of MY SWEET VIDALIA by Deborah Mantella. I love books that take place in the south, and this novel certainly sounded original. The reviews were overwhelmingly positive and I was sure that this book would resonate with me. Unfortunately, I thought MY SWEET VIDALIA was just okay. I am guessing that it just wasn't the right book for me at the right time.

MY SWEET VIDALIA tells the story of Vidalia Lee and her unborn daughter Cieli Mae. When Vidalia faces yet another act of violence, she ends up losing her unborn baby. However, Cieli Mae knows how much her mother needs her and refuses to leave her side. Cieli Mae is "there" for Vidalia through some pretty horrific events including abuse by her husband and additional pregnancies. She provides advice and much needed support to help Vidalia deal with the unfortunate circumstances in her life.

I was very excited to sit down and read MY SWEET VIDALIA. I found the idea of a "spirit child" helping her troubled mother to be extremely unique, and I was interested to see if the author could write this character convincingly. Overall, I do think Ms. Mantella was successful in creating a special character in Cieli Mae; and I didn't have any problem accepting her as a "real" character. (And that's saying something because I don't love books with spirits and otherworldly things.)

I really can't explain why I found this book to be just okay. The writing was good, but it wasn't outstanding. And I have to admit that the book didn't stick with me much after I finished the last page. While the premise was unique, the novel and the characters just didn't resonate with me. Overall, it was just very average.

I appreciated that the author tried to bring the south to life through her vivid descriptions. There were some very good passages in the story that stood out, and I found the portrayal of the prejudices and racial relations to be insightful. I also liked how this novel showed the overall positive message that people are kind. However, I think that many of the characters were one-dimensional... and I think that was maybe my issue with the book. There just wasn't enough depth to the various characters.

I accept that I am pretty much alone with my thoughts of MY SWEET VIDALIA. I suggest checking out some additional reviews because I'm pretty sure I missed something in this novel.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.


bermudaonion said...

There have been so many books written about the south during that time period and it doesn't sound like this one stands out in any way.

ChaosIsAFriendOfMine said...

That's too bad because it is a really interesting premise.

Happy New Year!