Saturday, July 16, 2005

Sights Unseen--Kaye Gibbons

I threw this back to Genevieve as a recommendation for more in the genre of Southern Lit Lite. I hadn't read Sights Unseen, but did love another book of Gibbons's, Charms For The Easy Life.

Sights Unseen is Hattie's reminiscence of growing up with her mother, a manic-depressive back in the 1940's-1960's, a time of few treatments and resources of families with mental illness. The Barnes do the best they can--monitoring her mother Maggie's unstoppable manic streaks, trying to keep her safe and oriented during her depressive cycles. It's a story that is often repeated in Southern culture--you're crazy/eccentric but it's allowed, keep up an appearance to the outside, and the family as a unit that is at once divided from and a part of the community. It's a stressful situation, but a workable one until Maggie's final transgression that puts her in the hospital for treatment.

The refreshing thing about this story is that the adult Hattie, while recognizing that her childhood was at times horrible due to her mom's illness, doesn't hold a grudge. And while it's a sad and brutal story that she tells, it is a redemption tale for Maggie. Her hospital stay and treatment allows her remake her life, while acknowledging the pain she's caused. It's a mature and grave tale that reminds you of the forgiveness you have to summon within your family sometimes..

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