Private Parts

Rebecca T. Godwin, Author
Rebecca T. Godwin, Author Longstreet Press $18.95 (202p) ISBN 978-1-56352-021-1
Reviewed on: 01/01/1970
Release date: 01/01/1955
Mattie is only 17 when she marries Jimmie Lee, youngest son of the Turners, who own the premier department store in tiny Red Hill, S.C. At first Mattie tries to adhere to traditional wifely precepts (``A woman's main job in this world is to take what's on her plate and make it taste good,'' her mother has said), to win over her mother-in-law and to master the complexities of Red Hill society. In chapters that are alternately introspective, wistful and biting, the undereducated but perceptive Mattie details episodes in a painful, 22-year voyage of self-discovery. First novelist Godwin invents scenarios that clearly express Mattie's sense of herself as peripheral--early in her marriage, for example, she tolerates an endless series of phone calls from an eavesdropping clerk at the Turner store who is all too eager to feed her late-breaking gossip. Later, a hysterectomy compels Mattie to confront her deep sense of loss and limitation. By novel's end, a hurricane has swept through the town, prompting Mattie to hurtle her way toward independence: ``The wind has blown through, and I'm tired of forever looking back.'' Godwin chooses original and telling moments from Mattie's marriage, but her pacing is too indulgent and her tale of growth and liberation too familiar. (May)
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