Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind

Ann B. Ross, Author William Morrow & Company $23 (273p) ISBN 978-0-688-16788-2
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."" Agent, Peter Miller/Delin Cormeny. Author tour. (July)
Reviewed on: 06/28/1999
Release date: 07/01/1999
Compact Disc - 978-1-4159-5467-6
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-688-17775-1
Hardcover - 393 pages - 978-0-7862-2255-1
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-06-095887-9
Ebook - 288 pages - 978-0-06-197830-2
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