In last week’s post about comfort reading, I forgot one of my all-time favourites: Bailey White’s Mama Makes Up Her Mind: And Other Dangers of Southern Living.
I’m not a southerner myself — the closest I’ve gotten is three days spent in Tennessee in January, and a week in Alabama in December — but after reading this book, the region almost feels like home, from the dank tangle of the swamps to the sociable oak snakes on the mantelpiece. Drawn from pieces of Bailey’s real life, Mama Makes Up Her Mind gambols through tales of stubborn ornithologists, unexpected bicyclists, selectively destructive tornadoes, and daughters with good intentions. Most of the stories are funny, some are more nostalgic, and a few are downright creepy, but all are told with a warmth and richness that reveal Bailey’s deep affection for her family and surroundings.
The format of Mama Makes Up Her Mind makes it a great pick for bedtime reading, waiting-room entertainment, or other venues with a short time frame or frequent interruptions. If you’re not sure about this short story business and need something with a good strong plot, start with “Something Like a Husband” for the tale of two women trying to get their new telephone connected, “Memorizing Trollope” for the story of a girl finding an unusual path to pushing back against her overbearing father, or “Maine” for a first-grade teacher’s unfortunate conflation of romanticism and the U.S. Postal Service. If you’re comfortable with short stories and want to see another writer’s hand at description, turn to the stunning portrait of “Buzzard” or the lyricism of “Distillates”. And if you’re just in the mood for some fantastic humour, try Bailey’s mother’s new mission in “Teaching Luther to Cook”, her medical history in “Instant Care”, or her cooking whimsies in “Dead on the Road”. Really, no matter what story you read first, you can’t go wrong with Bailey White.
What writer do you feel has captured your city or region particularly well?
Photo credit: Book cover from Better World Books.