The charm of the South drew her back to her family’s roots. But when the town’s old resentments turn the sweet tea bitter, can Tish find a welcome anywhere?
Leaving frosty Michigan for the Deep South was never a blip in the simple plans Tish McComb imagined for her life, dreams of marriage and family that were dashed five years earlier in a tragic accident. Now an opportunity to buy her great-great-great-grandparents’ Civil War era home beckons Tish to Noble, Alabama, a Southern town in every sense of the word. She wonders if God has given her a new dream— the old house filled with friends, her vintage percolator bubbling on the sideboard.
When Tish discovers that McCombs aren’t welcome in town, she feels like a Yankee behind enemy lines. Only local antiques dealer George Zorbas seems willing to give her a chance. What’s a lonely outcast to do but take in Noble’s resident prodigal, Melanie Hamilton, and hope that the two can find some much needed acceptance in each other.
Problem is, old habits die hard, and Mel is quite set in her destructive ways. With Melanie blocked from going home, Tish must try to manage her incorrigible houseguest as she attempts to prove her own worth in a town that seems to have forgotten that every sinner needs God-given mercy, love and forgiveness.
When the main character has the same last name as me, minus the final S, it surely must be a sign. Furthermore, when the book is set in the same state as my sister-in-law (a 1 in 50 chance), well, this is a book I decided I had to read! Tish McComb, named for her ancestor, Leticia, doesn’t expect to buy the ancestral property she visits. Learning it’s for sale, she really just plans on taking a look around the old home while it’s possible to do so. Nor does she know that her last name of McComb is extremely unpopular. The old stories regarding Nathan and Leticia McComb haven’t died and don’t look like they will any time in the near future.
Gone South reads like an homage to Gone With the Wind and the parable of the Prodigal Son. There’s no Scarlett or Rhett, but we do have Melanie Hamilton whose mother loves the classic movie. With the character’s track record, however, she reminded me more of ‘Felony Melanie’ from the much recent movie Sweet Home Alabama. Then we have the constant references to the Prodigal Son story and how Mel’s father doesn’t welcome her home the same way the prodigal’s father did. There’s no fatted calf here. But we do have a man of Greek heritage named George, which is interesting considering the first paragraph just happens to be set in a Greek sub shop in Michigan.
My favorite character doesn’t have any lines, but plays a pivotal role in the book. In fact, she’s responsible for Tish and George meeting each other. Daisy is a Maltese who has never quite got over the death of her owner – George’s mother. Every opportunity she gets Daisy makes an escape for her former home, which happens to be the old McComb house.
The one problem I have with Gone South is that it doesn’t feel like it’s set in Alabama. Noble could be a small town anywhere in the southern half of the country. The descriptions of the area are all very generic, whereas I love to know the background elements. What is in the narrative that indicates where the book is set? For example, there’s a passing mention of the Alabama and Auburn college football programs, but no one in the book talks about the huge – and very popular – rivalry between them. Other readers might feel this level of detail isn’t needed but I believe the omission of detail diminished my enjoyment of the book.
On the whole, however, Gone South is a pleasant enough way to pass an afternoon. It has a small cast of characters with their own charms. You’ll like some and dislike others. There’s little to cause offense either.
Thank you to Waterbrook Multnomah for my free copy of Gone South, which I received in exchange for an honest review.
Publication Date: 07 May 2013
Page Count: 352