Sweetgrass ~ Mary Alice Monroe ~ 10/05
September 6, 2005 - 07:35 am

Mary Alice Monroe

Sweetgrass, a richly textured story about family, loss and forgiveness.

Those who gathered in Isle of Palms, SC in January '05 met Ms Monroe for a delightful afternoon, discussing her books, her involvement with the Sea Turtle Rescue teams, and much more.       Now we have the incredible opportunity of discussing this wonderful book directly WITH the author, beginning October 1 !!      And what a book it IS!

Highly anticipated, Mary Alice Monroe's new novel, Sweetgrass, was released July 1st.
Mary Alice Monroe is the New York Times, USA Today, best selling author of richly textured books that explore the parallels between nature and human nature. Her novels include Skyward, The Beach House, The Book Club and The Four Seasons.” ~ Sweetgrass ~ Mary Alice Monroe

To me the best thing about MAM's writing is I really feel I KNOW the people in the book, They seem real not fictional and that is a gift to the reader. ----- I have to say I can't recall enjoying a book in a long time as much as I am enjoying Sweetgrass! ~ Annafair

~ For Your Consideration: Week IV: Chapters 17-End ~

Wow! A powerful ending, lots going on here lots of threads tied up and things explained, do you understand all of them? Let's talk about the end.

  • 1. "When were you going to tell me?" (page 323). Morgan has read his mother's letters. Why is he so upset? Would she have eventually told him? Would you?

  • 2.
    Footfalls echo in the memory
    Down the passage which we did not take
    Towards the door we never opened.
    --T.S. Eliot

    In Chapter 19, Morgan returns to Bluff House.

  • How do the descriptions of the scenery and nature foreshadow what's about to happen?
  • Why was it important for Morgan to relive the scene in the boat when his brother died and what did he learn from the "conversation" with his brother?

  • 3. Is there such a thing as a Chinese Partnership? Have you ever heard of one before? Do you understand how it works? What would be the advantage of such an arrangement?

  • 4. In addition to all the other things going on in the book, there's a development of relationships between several of the major characters. Which relationships would you say have undergone the most change at the end of the book? Can you see the "character arc" of each character that Mary Alice spoke about earlier?

  • 5.. What difference did the discovery of presence of the cemetery of Nona's ancestors make to the Chinese partnership?

  • 6..Are you familiar with the story of Parsifal and the Fisher King? (Mary Alice: did you fashion the book to go along with the legend or did you think of it after you got well into the book?) If the story parallels this plot, what do you think was the Holy Grail in the book?

  • 7. What, now that we have finished the entire book, in your opinion, was the turning point of the book?

  • 8. What struck you most in the last four chapters of the book?

  • 9. I still would like to know why Mary Alice Monroe connected the Bison to Morgan's character. The Bison is such a big part of American History. Why did Mary Alice Monroe use the Bison to help Morgan work through his guilt about losing his brother? --Hats

  • 10.

    I really loved the characters, Morgan and Preston. So at odds with one another, but I can't remember anything done by them that harmed others.---Hats

    If you look at the harm done by the characters to the others, which was inadvertent (Preston seems to have hurt Morgan or that's how Morgan took it?) and which deliberate, and does that difference MAKE a difference in the plot? In other words could we chart the action BY that difference?

  • 11. We've all commented on how real the characters are, but who is the least believable character in the book and why?

  • 12. "I have one more question. My family have visited a few beaches: Pensacola, St.Pete, Virginia Beach, Biloxi, Jekyll Island, Atlantic City, New Jersey and Myrtle Beach, S.C. All of the beaches are wonderful. I know with all of her travels MAM has visited many more beaches. It's known that each beach is different. Mary Alice Monroe, which beach is your favorite? "--Hats

    Questions Chapters 1 - 6 || Questions Chapters 7 - 11 || ASC Questions Chapters 12 - 16

  • Mary Alice Monroe Interview ~ Questions and Answers
    Mary Alice Monroe to SeniorNet Books:
    “A character arc represents the journey a character travels in a novel. This is an inner, personal journey of growth, insights gleamed and ultimately some kind of transformation. In SWEETGRASS, the character Mama June began as an elder wife/mother who had, through the fault of personal tragedy, allowed her family bonds and her marriage to fall apart. Through the course of the novel, this woman faced hard truths and realities that enabled her to rediscover her inner courage and strength. Her journey from a weak, protected woman to a strong and determined was her character arc.”

    I come from a large family and have learned that if there is a big issue that everyone is aware of--perhaps not supposed to know about--yet no one openly acknowledges, it is like having a big elephant in the middle of the room that everyone pretends they don't see. The psyche always knows.

    In the Blakely family, there was a failure of communication. Secrets divide families. That is one of the reasons I had Preston become mute. His forced silence was not only symbolic, but it forced communication. Not just verbal, but communication with other senses as well.
    ~ Discussion Schedule ~

    Week IV: October 25-31 Chapters 17- end

    Discussion Leaders: Ginny and Judy

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    September 6, 2005 - 01:43 pm
    Hello and welcome to our Proposed discussion of Sweetgrass WITH THE AUTHOR!! And boy isn't she wonderful! see our current Interview with her. It's just magic, we're all enjoying it SO much and learning so much, too.

    But Sweetgrass is also a wonderful book, and you learn so much in it. It's a big sweeping saga about conflict between generations, and what happens when the younger generation rejects what the older has always stood for, and how that feels on both sides.

    It's about family dynamics and the nature of human dignity and friendships.

    It's about parent and child relationships and what it means to try to pass something down and then be in danger of losing it.

    And it's about loss and how that affects all our lives, and coping.

    It's also got kind of an Upstairs/ Downstairs element also with a surprising twist.

    And it's about the history of basket making in the deep South, you'll learn an awful lot and enjoy every minute.

    I personally have always wondered about these huge historic houses and plantations, handed down from father to son. We've seen what happened in England and how titles and land went to the highest bidder when they could no longer be kept up. But here in America we have our castles, too, notably the Biltmore House, marvelously run by the family. . . but what of Sweetgrass?

    This is a wonderful book, and just think, at the Thanksgiving Table you can tell YOUR family you talked to the author!

    But this discussion is only proposed. In order to schedule it we need for you to sign in and we need a quorum. Please sign up today and declare your intention, I guarantee you'll love it!

    Judy Laird
    September 6, 2005 - 02:34 pm
    Welcome every one that is joining the discussion of MAM's book Sweetgrass. It is a wonderful book and as far as I am concerned a tale of many things in the south, but most importantly the growth by builders who are grabbing up and building on land that they should not build on. I come from a construction family and I feel that we have way more restrictive law's out here than back there.

    September 6, 2005 - 08:20 pm
    I will be joining this discussion.

    September 7, 2005 - 02:40 am
    YAY, Welcome, Marjorie, this should be wonderful, please tell all the readers in your own group about this!

    Malryn (Mal)
    September 7, 2005 - 12:45 pm
    I am moving to Pennsylvania from North Carolina the day after tomorrow, but hope my computer is shipped to me before October first because I very much want to buy Mary Alice Monroe's Sweetgrass and join this discussion. I have some sweetgrass baskets that I bought in the low country in South Carolina some years ago. I love them, and did enjoy watching the artists who make them.


    September 7, 2005 - 12:59 pm
    Ginny and Judy,

    I would like to become a part of the discussion also. I am looking forward to October.

    September 7, 2005 - 05:00 pm
    waiting I find if I read too far ahead I cant keep up when are discussing so I have only read a few pages and will wait until nearer the end of the month to enjoy and be ready for the discussion...anna

    PS Judy I think there is a lot of land that should NEVER be built on..and it disturbs me to see the local city councils approve the developement of some of these areas., I have seen whole forests decimated for stores etc and HOW many gas stations and fast food places and 7-11's does a city need? I have seen them open and fail and why does each corner have to have a business ? CANT some of them be little green spaces..??SORRY being only 5 foot tall I rather like being on a soap box but will now get down and hush..anna

    September 7, 2005 - 05:23 pm
    Welcome, Malryn! I hope your computer gets there too and you can join us!

    Welcome Hats!

    Welcome Annafair, what fun this is, I think this is going to be a wonderful discussion, there's such depth to the characters and situations that anybody can relate to, can't WAIT!

    It will be interesting for us to decide what we think is the main theme, because already I can see lots of different opinions out there as to what the book is about, I wonder what we'll each pick up on!

    Judy Laird
    September 7, 2005 - 06:17 pm
    Annafair my question is how did the city council or whoever allow those developer's to build right on the beach on The Isle of Palm's?? Not only screw up the turtle's the sweetgrass (maybe) . I don't know if I told you this but I took picture's of some of the monsterous house being built I am sure just to rent out for a humogeus fee by the week in the summer. This isn't only happening on the Isle of Palm's but in many places. Ny oldest son looked at them and said " a hard blow and they are gone" Don't anyone mistake me this is happening all over where is shouldn't be.

    Ann Alden
    September 9, 2005 - 05:47 am
    And yes, Judy, they not only build them too close to the coast but we are paying for them to be rebuilt every time a diaster occurs. That's our tax money that keeps those people, in many circumstances, rich and well housed. I saw a part of this explained on "Sunday Morning" on one of the networks in the past couple of years and was horrified by it. We are allowing people to get rich off their rent and covering them in case of diasters. Its the pits!

    What I want to know is: If all of this was stopped, would the sweetgrass and the coastal lands come back?? Wouldn't it be great if we quit rebuilding and building and returned the coast to its natural state??

    Ann Alden
    September 9, 2005 - 07:00 am
    Redemption in the Bayou

    Judy Laird
    September 9, 2005 - 07:46 am
    Good question Ann I would like to know that.

    Did you click on that URL you gave us and read Barbara Bush's comment's ????

    September 9, 2005 - 10:45 am
    Welcome, welcome, Ann!

    I am so looking forward to this one, like no other, I think.

    Those of you who participated in the Wally Lamb disucssion, don't miss his cousin Nancy Birkla's remarks (who also participated in the discussion and has been a big part of our Prison Library Project ) yesterday in the Prison Library Project discussion, she's staying with him and they're going on tour!

    September 9, 2005 - 12:51 pm
    Count me in. October is going to be busy busy busy, but I wouldn't miss this discussion for the world.

    Will check out the links here after I get home Tuesday. My braother's laptop is too small for heavy reading.

    September 9, 2005 - 01:03 pm

    I agree with you. I do not want to miss this discussion. The questions in the third paragraph above, in the heading, made my toes tingle. The questions are so interesting. I have no doubt that Mary Alice Monroe's Sweetgrass will answer all of the questions through the lives of her characters.

    Mary Alice Monroe's books always make me want to change my life in some way. I think her books are life changing.

    September 9, 2005 - 02:11 pm
    Welcome, Pedln!! On the road again, I am glad you got there safely, I agree with you, would NOT miss it for the world!

    Hats, what a beautiful thought! I'm going to put this in the heading! Mary Alice Monroe's books always make me want to change my life in some way. I think her books are life changing.

    Love it!!

    September 10, 2005 - 04:36 pm
    I have read "Sweetgrass" and loved it. I hated to see it end. I wanted more. I had to return it to the library so I hope I will be able to check it out again in time for the discussion. There is a waiting list as it is a very popular book.


    September 10, 2005 - 06:42 pm
    YAY Sandyrose, welcome!! I loved it, too, and isn't it something to be able to talk directly to the author, this is amazing and I am so looking forward to it!

    Welcome, welcome!!

    September 11, 2005 - 01:50 pm
    What more can we ask for? I'm in!!!

    September 12, 2005 - 09:28 am
    Welcome, ALF (Andrea), we are so glad to see you here, this is going to be a super discussion, I can't wait.

    Joan Grimes
    September 16, 2005 - 03:55 pm
    I want to participate in this discussion. I am ordering the book now and will try to get it read in time for the discussion.

    It is exciting to know that Mary Alice Monroe will be here with us!

    Joan Grimes

    September 16, 2005 - 05:03 pm
    Welcome, Joan! Isn't it exciting? I think you will love it, also, it speaks to so many things we can all relate to!


    Joan Grimes
    September 16, 2005 - 07:39 pm

    I think it might just be the book I am looking for, the one that will help me get back to reading. I love Mary Alice Monroe. She is such a wonderful person. I really enjoyed Beach House. I enjoye her writing. I think this book will be very good for me.

    Thanks for the welcome.

    Joan Grimes

    September 23, 2005 - 08:10 am
    Mary Alice,

    What can I say? You have done it again. Sweetgrass is a marvelous book. I think you touched every emotion in my body. Thank you for writing this book.

    Judy Laird
    September 30, 2005 - 09:10 pm
    Welcome everyone I am sure this will be a wonderful discussion. I look forward to the comment's from everyone that is planning to join us. I especially look forward to hearing from all the people that were at the Isle of Palm's. What a wonderful trip that was and how gracious was Mary Alice to visit with us as she did.

    Sweetgrass is a wonderful read. I enjoyed it so much and so many character's to explore. A family torn apart by sickness and huge decision's will strike a note with each person.

    I have not done my share or any share at all in the leading of this book. I am sorry, but health reason's for both myself and my husband have taken up a lot of my strength.

    I especially enjoy the lead in before each chapter. In this book it is quote from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

    I know this will be a great discussion.

    October 1, 2005 - 04:58 am
    A bright good morning and welcome, All, to what should be a MOST satisfying experience! We know the book's good, and we've got the privilege, here on our virtual porches, of sitting back in our porch rockers and talking ABOUT the book with the author herself, something that certainly does not happen every day!

    So welcome, welcome, Mary Alice, and welcome, All!

    Judy I'm so glad to see you and I hope that your health and that of your husband will improve soon, and as you say, there is so much to relate to in the book, for everybody. I like those chapter headings, too, we'll put them in the heading as well, good point!!

    Just a note for our new members: our book discussions take a month and our process here, particularly with this book, is not to take the whole thing and discuss it as a whole, at one time, sort of like gulping a 10 course meal and then having to critique the strawberries in course 4, but rather to move slowly thru the book, section by section, savoring and remarking on every bite of every dish as it comes out.

    We'll be like one giant brain, thinking and reacting out loud to everything we encounter, whether or not we know how the book ends, and in this way we can enjoy our initial joy when we first discovered the book and share our reactions.

    Sort of a "Read Along with Mitch" type of operation, so for our first week, whether or not you have read the entire book 100 times, we'll confine ourselvles to the first 102 pages, and only talk about what happens there, for now, in the first week, down to the last paragraph on 102. There's enough to talk about THERE for year, alone.

    And since we know the book is so well crafted and so carefully done (please see SeniorNet's own Interview With Mary Alice Monroe in the heading for more), there can be no doubt it's worthy of close scrutiny. NOW we can ask all the questions we have wanted to ask, (at least those on the first 102 pages) and talk about the various issues, themes, and what WE each see working in the book.

    So pull up a chair and welcome!

    We'll put up one question per day or more in the heading hopefully to spark your ideas, but if you have any thoughts, themes, or questions please also ask them here and up they go, too.

    In addition Mary Alice's own website Mary Alice Monroe's Website also has Reader's Guides and they have several questions for Sweetgrass, which we'll also use, every one, and credit them. She also has a very nice section on Book Clubs with other Reader's Guides and I was so pleased to be able to give that link to a book club in New Jersey who discovered her here on SeniorNet! If you click on her Book Clubs area and scroll down you'll see something kind of startling, I advise doing it! Hahahaa

    So without further ado, we begin our wonderful journey thru this wonderful book, settle back and let's TALK!!

    Here are some focus topics on the first few PAGES, this is a rich book, to get us going:

  • 1. The book starts out in medias res in the middle of things, with a bang, the contrast between nature and the heritage of the house with the threat of losing it all, painting a vivid picture for the reader.

  • How do the references to nature parallel what seems to be happening to the people in the opening pages?

  • What tone do the descriptions in the very opening pages seem to give to the book? Is it one of sunshine and happiness or do you feel a threat? And if a threat, how many different sources does it have?

  • What effect did this beginning have on you personally?

  • 2. "I've done my best- God knows I've fought the good fight. But I'm old now. And I'm worn out. I don't have it in me to fight them anymore." (p.14)

    Let's list the broader issues that this statement encompasses, both in the book and in life in general, what would you say are some possible themes developing here?

  • 3. "Maybe if that no-good son of ours had stayed home we wouldn't be in this mess." (page 15)….."'What did I bother working for all these years,' he called after her…'I have no one to pass this all down to.'" (page 16).

  • Is it realistic for Preston to blame his son Morgan for his troubles? What happens when a grown child seems to need to go his own way or seems not to value what his parents have sacrificed so much for?

  • The Blakeleys in this book have owned and run Sweetgrass Plantation for 8 generations, that's a long time. What seems most important to Preston, his son or his land?

  • Do you know of any other similar situation in life where a father hoped to establish a dynasty and failed? Is there something illogical about this wish? Whose side would you be on in this case? Morgan's or his fathers?

  • 4. Who is the narrator of this book? Whose point of view are we hearing? Whose eyes do we see it through?

  • 5. Which theme of all the ones we see above, the very first few pages, is the most important, to you in these opening pages? And we haven't even GOTTEN to friendship, the ecology or all the other terrific swirling imagery in this book.

    Personally Preston was so real to me, and their relationship so real that when he (I thought he had died) had his stroke in the opening pages, I was really upset, I wanted to learn more about him and her and their relationship, and how they got that way.

    But the main thing for ME in these opening pages was the theme of the family home, and all the issues that brings up, in 2005. Where is home to you? How many homes or houses have you had? How important would it be to YOU to keep your old family home in the family? What sort of a burden does that carry with it? I'll be back this morning later to try to articulate some of these things, and I really would like to hear your perspectives on this topic, I'll catch some breakfast and get the grape customers all set up in the vineyard and be right back.

    Let's start then with these few pages, just these few, and ease into the book. Thank you, Patwest, for this pretty heading and doing such a good job on the Interview page, so we can keep that forever. But let's see what you all think about any of these issues or anything else, this bright morning!!
  • Ella Gibbons
    October 1, 2005 - 11:21 am
    A moody March, a storm, a quarrel, a bitter quarrel - all the elements are there in the beginning of the book and I don't know why I continued to read as I usually do not read fiction, but I wanted to discuss a book online as it has been some time since I last did so.

    And I was not among those who met the author - was it a year ago? Mercy!!!!

    The more I read the more I thought I should quit reading as the characters came alive for me and it's a sad book - a dysfunctional family - and I don't need "sad" in my life at the present time. However, I have read the entire book but will follow the schedule listed in the heading.

    Particularly moving is the difference between the father and the mother's attitude toward what is important in life and what is not - "life's efforts had been for naught" and the wife's comment - You've driven our children away...all you care about is this piece of earth.

    Possibly, this is the theme of the book; so, of course, I had to read on to determine how the author deals with this man and woman and if it is true that men, who often see their role in life as providers, and women, who are the nurturers, can reconcile these difference and their importance to a marriage and life.

    I'll think more about the questions in the heading later and attempt to answer a few.

    "I swanny?" A colloqial expression? Never heard that one....

    "he felt weak as a woman" (pg.22) Must chide the author for that, modern women may not appreciate it! Hahahaaa

    October 1, 2005 - 11:37 am
    Ella, lots of Southern people say "I swan" or "I swanny". As for the quote from p. 22, you're right many modern women would not appreciate that, but here in the South, lots of Good Ole Boys still have that attitude. I haven't read the book yet, but am really looking forward to it. Mary Alice is one of my favorite contemporary authors. Sue

    October 1, 2005 - 12:14 pm
    It's like the land and the family are a mirror image of one another. Sorrow and a feeling of being disconnected broods over each person in the family. There is a sense of illness. I felt that until the family healed its own conflicts, they could not deal with the health and well-being of the land. Ironically, both the land and the family are starving.

    October 1, 2005 - 03:30 pm
    I especially like the word pictures Mary Alice Monroe paints while she tells an engrossing story of the dysfunctional family. I am a Yankee and the word pictures are giving me a sense of what being in the Low Country would be like.

    HATS: I had focussed on the connection between the paragraph at the beginning of the chapter and what was happening within the chapter. I hadn't thought of the land and family being mirror images. I would include the weather as part of the land in that comparison. The storm breaks just as Preston and Mama June reach the peak of their argument. Then the wind carries away the papers that started the argument in the first place.

    Ann Alden
    October 1, 2005 - 08:46 pm
    But I did enjoy reading it and hope to be here in the next few days for discussion and to pay more attention to the above questions.

    I found the descriptions of the weather, the beautiful low country's proximity to the wetlands and the ocean so familiar. The losses of the sweet grasses are juxaposed against a backdrop of dysfunction and sadness of many family losses. A way of life for the Gulas may be coming to an end also.

    October 1, 2005 - 09:19 pm
    If I read a book too soon I find myself having to read it again so this time I waited and just now finished up to the 6th chapter. hated to put it down but know if I keep reading I wont stop until I finish it . I want to KNOW how it all turns out.

    I must say Mary Alice Monroe you waste no time in getting your readers hooked! You make the characters so believeable it is like they are your family and you want everyone to just get along.

    Most of the time when I read a book I enjoy it parelling life. even in the best of families there are differences because we are not our parents and our husbands and wives do not behave like our fathers and mothers , The dynamics are different and it is hard sometimes to see that . Sweetgrass has jumped right in and shows us how a "real" family acts . You can call it dysfunctional but when I recall my parents, their brothers and sisters ,the inlaws , the granchildren , my cousins I "swanny" it sounds so familiar. Since I know how it worked in my large family I am really interested in seeing how this works out.

    And on top of that we have the history and story of the weaving of the sweetgrass baskets. Here you have a story about family relations and learning something about basket making ! I will have to put a big notice on my book DONT READ AHEAD!

    Looking forward to a whole month of reading and discussion, A good book. author participation and discussing with other readers! Some things just make life feel good, anna

    October 2, 2005 - 05:54 am
    I do feel a threat from the very beginning. I felt so sad. I knew the whole family needed to share, just let go of some misunderstandings. Somehow I never questioned their love for one another. It's just buried under wet mud.

    Marjorie, the weather is so important. It's like the family itself were blowing every different direction. I see the family as a pyramid or a food chain. Mama June, Preston and the son in Montana can not save the beloved home or the "sacred spot" until their storm passes and the sunshine, their love, appears again.

    Like Anna, I think all families reach these stormy spots. Boy, does it feel good to pull out into calmer waters again.

    October 2, 2005 - 06:22 am
    Well a bright good Sunday morning to all of you and how delighted I am to see you on a Saturday! Normally we don't start book discussions on Saturday, but this one is too good to wait till Monday so I'm surprised and excited to see so many turning out already, with more to come, welcome, All!

    Actually in reading your posts, I suddenly discovered what I think is another theme here in the first few pages, and that's of the potential of loss. The point you're making and the book also makes about weather, the unpredictability of weather and nature, and the recent storms Katrina and Rita, make me realize another parallel and that's of life itself.

    It seems sort of….I am not sure of the word, but our "golden years" are often fraught with loss and pain, and I'm not sure we all envisioned it quite that way? Did we? I didn't. And that also is unpredictable, or so it seems, like the weather.

    In the case of our…well WOULD you say at this point Preston IS the protagonist or is it June? I am somewhat hung up on that "Mama June" name and look forward to hearing what the rest of you think? I have heard grown men refer to their wives as "Mama," so I am not unfamiliar with it but am watching it like a hawk to see who calls her that and who does not.

    Whose point of view are we seeing here and Ella of course is dead right: they both have different viewpoints of life, I am not sure I noticed it before she mentioned it, not sure what I was thinking, but I believe she is 100 percent correct, but whose is accurate? I'll put that in the heading, also.

    Nature's unpredictability shatters our own sense of well being, as in the Katrina devastation, and leads the people who have to deal with it in a quandary:

    What hiding-place do we look to, what help, if the earth itself is causing the ruin, if what protects us, upholds us, on which cities are built, which some speak of as kind of foundation of the universe, separates and reels?

    I think this quotation is apt here too, tho it was written by Seneca about the earthquake of Pompeii in 62 AD.

    What hiding place, what help, what do we have to look to when our very foundations are shattered?

    Do we then conclude that the foundations themselves are not, and have NOT been all these years, stable?

    Then do we have to reevaluate our own lives and what we thought? And when we do that, is the result good or bad for everybody concerned? I think this is also one of the messages of the book, let's look at what YOU said, tho!

    October 2, 2005 - 06:25 am
    Welcome Hats, and look at you this morning, another theme: saving something, some heritage, whether it's of nature (the bison in Montana) or the sweetgrass itself or the family home Sweetgrass or a marriage? Good good point there, in tying in all of the efforts to save, we need to put THAT as a theme in the heading too! That heading will soon be 9 miles long and good for us all.

    Now you are seeing a sadness and Ella did too, whose side here are we on, let's take sides now, Preston's or June's? Whose viewpoint do YOU espouse and what would YOU do when the threat came? That to go up in the heading also, hang on!

    Welcome, Hats!!

    October 2, 2005 - 06:39 am
    Ella I am so glad to see you and your decisive mind once again among us after your own great loss, and I think your point is electric about the difference in perspective as to what's important in life, I'm going to put that in the heading also as a possible theme.

    Another super point about the role of women and men in life, and what situation these people find themselves in, and how that might change. I agree with you I was much taken by the characters and had to read on as well.

    Weak as a woman might be typical of how Preston thinks, and it will be interesting to watch him struggle as he becomes weak as a human with a stroke, there are a lot of powerful things going on in these first few pages.

    Welcome, Sue, we look forward to your incisive comments and background about the South. What did you think about that "Mama June" name? For some reason I am very hung up on who would call her that.

    Oh Hats what a beautiful image, the family and the land are starving, that's wonderful! And they are mirrors of each other, loved that too.

    I loved that part where Morgan (I hope it's in these pages, please note that the schedule in the heading has changed, we'll do the first 6 chapters this first week, not pages) drives up to the gates, that's as good as anything I ever read, loved that. Read it about 25 times, just loved it, so evocative, wasn't it?

    So everything is sort of decaying and facing loss, what all DO we see crumbling, let's make a list:

  • health
  • the marriage
  • the heritage, keeping Sweetgrass for another generation, the loss of "home,"
  • I am not sure we can say the parent/ child relationship here is crumbling, it may HAVE crumbled and are you seeing just a tad of jealousy there from Preston towards his son? I need to read that part again.
  • nature? Not sure we've gotten to this part.

  • What else?

    Oh Marjorie, welcome welcome and super point about the storm breaking, like Ella you have honed in on things I missed, yes it's all sort of meshed together, wonderful, as you say, word images.

    OH well done on the wind carrying away the papers in the argument, what did you think THAT meant??!!??


    Welcome Ann, so good to have you!

    Oh good points on the way of life for the GUlas also may be coming to an end. I'll add that also to the heading.

    Now you all find this family dysfunctional. So I have to ask, WHAT would have been "functional" in this situation?

    Let's look at the other side and potential.

    Welcome Anna, and what super points YOU make, "we are not our parents and our husbands and wives do not behave like our fathers and mothers , The dynamics are different and it is hard sometimes to see that."

    Yes, and I think that's a major theme too, in every family, and one that probably causes the most heartache. And you are saying you recognize the scene. What motivates US to do as we did? I'm going to give a personal example in my next post, let's examine all of these wonderful points you each have brought up, and welcome, welcome, Everyone, this is a keeper, let's DISCUSS!!

    Ella Gibbons
    October 2, 2005 - 06:44 am
    A quick note this lovely Sunday morning while getting dressed for church, lunch with a friend and a bit of shopping.

    Whose side are we on? Preston's or "Mama" June's? Neither or both, I should say. Each of their positions is understandable; Preston wants to save the land that has been in his family for generations and should be passed on to the next one. Mama June, the peacemaker, wants to keep the family together in love and harmony, regardless of whether the land is preserved or not.

    It is an age-old problem undoubtedly; this love of heritage and wanting to continue what those before you worked for and what you have devoted your life to.

    How can one take sides?

    What hiding place do we have? In the aftermath of the horrors of 9/11 and the hurricanes it is easy to say none at all. I believe the only hiding place we have is within ourselves, our spirits, our faith. Easy words but not so easy to practice.

    October 2, 2005 - 07:04 am
    A book like this not only makes the characters examine their own motivations and lives, it does the same for the reader, and when they say "old age is not for sissies," they mean it, don't they?

    As you get older the potential for loss increases, but somehow you think nothing will change? In the case of Preston, he's dead set on not losing the family home. At this point we are not sure why, but that appears one of his prime motivations and the threat presented by the taxes is too much for him to take.

    What is it, tho, about a piece of land and a house that causes this reaction? Whose perspective is right in this debate between Preston and June, it seems a long held argument. Which one is listening to the other? Is either one realistic?

    I just saw Billy Crystal's moving show 700 Sundays on Broadway this past fall. In it he comes out on stage out of a mock up of the house he grew up in, he deserved an award, which he received, for that performance, it was very moving and also hilarious.

    I grew up within 10 miles of Philadelphia until I went to college but we moved in those times quite a bit. My parents moved back south after I married as they were from the south originally. So "home" became a series of houses in PA and NJ that I could drive up to but not go IN, with the kids and say look kids, here's home, and then move to the next one and say look kids HERE'S home and so on. One year my youngest said, Mama, did you move everywhere? Hahahah It was NOT that many moves but home disappeared when I came south to go to college. So living in the inner city and then moving to the suburbs and then NJ, home kept disappearing. I found that trees took on great importance. Where I grew up, if you had ONE tree in your yard you were rich, because only those who could afford a tree when building a house really had the money much less 2 trees! TREES!!

    Do you remember the Levittowns? We never lived there but one of the prototypes in PA near Bristol was there and they fascinated me. You could get a TREE! Or TWO TREES! For extra! TWO TREES!

    In one of our moves we were within walking distance of a FARM, a real truck farm. I liked to walk over and play in the farmer's barn and his fields, he'd chase us out, but we liked to do that in one of our moves to Bensalem, PA.

    Trees AND fields! AND a barn, heaven.

    But my grandmother (I know this is too long, sorry) would write me letters. WE would have a farm, she and I? We would live there and have lots of trees. That would be home. My mother thought this was bad since obviously that was not going to happen, but it fed my dreams and so when the opportunity arose, my grandmother long gone, for my husband and me to buy the farm we now live on, we took it, and it meant more to me than the exchange of papers and money. It cost, too. It cost me my career, it was too far away to commute to my teaching job, but the children now have a "home." We have a farm. We have TREES!!! Acres of woods, so that makes me, in the parlance of my inner city youth, rich in trees. I still stare at them in wonder.

    What would happen if neither of our children wanted this realization of a dream, this "home?" If both of them moved far away and were happy elsewhere? Is it MY burden now of HOME they need to carry? Are they going to have strokes if the interstate connector does plan to come slap thru here as they show on a potential map?

    So this opening to the book really hit me hard.

    And Sweegrass is deliberately large. 8 generations, only a few hundred acres left. This is not some little farmstead, with one tree; somebody's "home." When you think on a grand scale and consider THOSE parallels, when you think of the great houses in England which have been handed down like that of Princess Diana's brother's home, the Spenser estate, what burden that must be to those who can't afford to keep it up, who have to charge admittance, who have to put in zoos and wildlife and let the tourists in, all those Stately Homes and all the American heiresses who became Ladies of the Manor, married for their money, what price some of the burdens of past generations on the present.

    I think these burdens are also themes in the book. And it does not have to have anything to DO with a house!

    Have you watched Antiques RoadShow? Have you seen people treasuring Great Aunt Matilda's silver tea service? Have you ever known squabbling in families over a particular piece left down and hoping it will be treasured?

    Let's talk about this issue of the burdens of the past generations, or any other issue that you would like in these opening pages. Whose side are YOU on, Preston's or June's? Which one do you think has the best perspective? What IS important to June? Let's put these in the heading and see what you think?

    Is there anything YOU hope to pass down that you worry might not be wanted?

    Let's hear from you, a wonderful start here today!

    October 2, 2005 - 07:47 am
    A lot of points have been raised since my last post but I was struck by one that ANNAFAIR mentioned: You can call it dysfunctional but when I recall my parents, their brothers and sisters ,the inlaws , the granchildren , my cousins I "swanny" it sounds so familiar.

    I have used the word "dysfunctional" for many years now to describe various situations. I wonder if it isn't a way to keep alive the hope that somewhere out there is a family that works in a way I would like a family to work?

    My life is one that is similar to GINNY's in that there is no Home to go to. I grew up in Chicago and from age 9 until I went to college we lived in one place. My parents left there a couple of years later and moved to smaller spaces. My son didn't know one home either. For 10 years we lived in one place but other than that there was a lot of moving around. I have been divorced for a long time now and live in California and my son just moved to New Hampshire. There is no Home to be passed on to him.

    One thing that I would like to have cherished after I am gone is my needlepoint. However, I don't have any idea who will want it.

    The kind of family home described in the book is not something I have experienced.

    October 2, 2005 - 08:41 am
    This is what I love about Preston. I think Seneca's quotation is in Preston's thoughts. Preston is frightened. It's like he sees a foreshadowing of his illness, the stroke. So, Preston is all about straightening the crooked paths of his life.

    I think this is one of the good things about growing older. Some of us begin to look at what we once valued and make reassessments. Our frailities make us look inward. That, I think, is what Preston is doing.

    What do I value? I value family. That my family remains in touch with one another long after I am gone is very important to me.

    I wish, in my younger day, I had sat around the family listening to stories, watching mom cook, asked dad questions about how he started his tailor business in Philadelphia. What made my parents choose to leave Florida and live in Philadelphia for the rest of their lives. So many questions that never can be answered.

    A personal story? My mother loved sewing. At her death, there were drawers and drawers and boxes and boxes of fabric. As my mother grew older, she couldn't sew anymore. When my dear mother died and we looked at the fabric, some of it had grown tissue thin and could easily be shredded in our hands. I have remembered that fabric. I know that at the end of my life relationships must become more important than a lazy susan, a silver vase or a ring.

    Thank goodness, my mother knew how to value her material possessions and her family. She was a wonderful woman and my father too.

    Judy Laird
    October 2, 2005 - 08:44 am
    As far as disfunctional goes I think most of us have it in some form. Tough for my boys as I had it. Uprooted them from piller to post on a whim and needless to say we have no "home" I sure wish we did.

    MAM is a master at you seeing what she writes about. I can see the falcon hospital to this day in Skyward. I can see the beach house in my mind. I can see the farm house in Sweetgrass. I know exactly what the road looks like on the way to the farm. the cliffs the old house. I do not know of another author that can do that for me. She has changed my life with the falcons and the turtle's. The most important part is that they have stayed with me, so that must be a huge talent on her part. I can't even tell you what the last 10 books I have read were about.

    As far as picking between Preston and Mama June I would not try to do that. They each have their beliefs and they had a fight not a big deal in famlies. If one of my kids or their wives were not mad at me I wouldn't know what to do. Preston has worked like a dog all his life but he wouldn't give it up for the world. Mama June's life has also been in that marriage that farm and the children. They neither one mean what was said in the fight. Preston is going the man way with the macho stuff and I hate that but they mostly all do it.

    I can so vivdly see the storms and I as was re-reading last night while we had a huge thunder and lightning storm. I got on the couch in the sun room with a blanket MAM's book and read and watched the rain thunder lighning and hail hit the sun roof I though it doesn't get much better than this. On page 17 their are some of the most beautiful descriptions reading MAM's books are a incredible pleasure.

    October 2, 2005 - 08:48 am
    "Nature's unpredictability shatters our own sense of well being, as in the Katrina devastation, and leads the people who have to deal with it in a quandary: "

    Nature reflects our life's ups and downs in many ways; coming in like a lion, going out like a lamb, hurricanes, earthquakes, bedlam and then finally peace and serenity. It leaves debris in its wake and does devasting, long lasting damage, to both the earth and the psyche. It's much like life.

    Judy Laird
    October 2, 2005 - 01:34 pm
    Alf you are so right.

    October 2, 2005 - 01:53 pm
    You have put the reason of the storms of life (the weather and the families) so beautiful. We have the storms so we apprieciate the peace and calm so much more, knowing not to take things for granted.

    Thank you for your post, Ginger

    October 2, 2005 - 02:01 pm
    If the humans would stop messing with natures protection the storms would not be so bad in some instantances. I think you have had some very bad storms where you live and you know I have.

    (The Blakeleys in this book have owned and run Sweetgrass Plantation for 8 generations, that's a long time. What seems most important to Preston, his son or his land? You ask)

    Both it seems are inportant to Preston so Preston chose the land hoping his son would come home some day as the prodical did in another book.

    To me a homestead is very important

    When my child left she always comes back to the house that has so many memories but I think she willl probably sell it like Morgan wants to (unless she changes and I hope she does as I am trying to keep this ole house up to par.

    I felt bad that the true homestead in Minnesota was sold but the fact the memonites have it now and let us at our family reunion enter the house and walk the land to where the first house a cabin was. The best part is that uncle Joe's parcial that was given to him by his dad (my grandfather) Then Joe to his children split it up will lots on the banks of the Rainey river where they spend much of the summer next to each other and that keeps the Mannausau family closer together. I love that (and this book about family and there homestead as I can relate to it.

    October 2, 2005 - 02:07 pm
    One's land, one's family and ones wallet is about as close as you can get to ones heart. Mary Allice shows us this to be true.

    October 2, 2005 - 02:09 pm
    You and I think Preston and Mama June are right in there own way, men want to keep the land and woman want to keep the family together but many times it does not work out in life as we know it.

    Aha, we both feel the same way about (I believe the only hiding place we have is within ourselves, our spirits, our faith).

    October 2, 2005 - 02:10 pm
    We took ares with us because we lived in a travel trailer so just the states and people around us were different. The only "house" we have had is the one I live in now, of corse I had one of my own about a 1/4 mile from here from 66 till 95 but it was on the same property that we tilled oh so many years ago.

    October 2, 2005 - 02:17 pm
    Lost all our 50 year old trees that we had planted from my grandfathers farm because of the tornado took them down but my favorite tree was the most beautiful oak I have ever seen as it was shaped so well, tall and strong but alas when I sold the empty lot it was brought down as they wanted to build there house right there. my heart gets heavy whenever I think of it.

    Farms I used to go to a goat farm to play with the goats when we lived in the camper mom did not like the smell but could not keep me away, Hehehe.

    October 2, 2005 - 02:19 pm
    To me is a work of art created by loved ones and should be kept in rememberance of the one who created it. I still have some created by my mother and grandmother that I cherish.

    October 2, 2005 - 02:26 pm
    I suppose that this would be a good place to "dump" my thoughts. I've just returned from a 4 day outing at Daytona Beach. It is a good catharsis for me when I walk the beach. It clears my head. It is the only place where I have ever found peace and quiet, allowing my thoughts to take control. (Not easy for me.)

    I even wrote a poem as I treked up and down, pounding my feet in tune to the rhythm of the waves as they beat, throbbed and pulsated against the shoreline. It is the main reason that I moved to N. Myrtle Beach in the 80's, when the kids left home.
    Everything that Mary Alice has written, I swear I've felt- only at the beach! There is no sentiment or conclusion that I have not sensed while at the beach. I truly feel I can commune with nature there, speak to my creator and feel whatever it is I'm trying not to feel. The beach enables me to caress each thought (quietly,) to acknowledge things I've ignored (quietly), to perceive the sound of the water and waves as they scream at me to listen, listen , listen. Sweetgrass is a big bonus for me- additional time that I had while living at the beach has been extended thanks to Mary Alice.

    Oh dear, this is more than you wanted to know.

    October 2, 2005 - 02:29 pm

    October 2, 2005 - 05:02 pm
    Hello, I will have to try to get Sweetgrass from the library again as I do not remember chapter for chapter, but I do remember being angry with Mamma June when she was a college girl and until she came to grips and could help her invalid husband.

    Very interesting to me were the passages at the beginning of each chapter. With each one I wondered how the author found or chose them. I just finished another of her books, The Book Club, (I think is the title?) and she did the same at the beginning of each chapter.

    Judy Laird
    October 2, 2005 - 08:30 pm
    Wow Alf you should be writing a book.

    October 2, 2005 - 09:21 pm
    Each character MAM creates reminds me of some one in my family somewhere Where I live now I have been since 1972 and it is where my children finally were allowed to grow up in one place. They were too young or did were not yet born when my husband and our first born lived in more than a dozen places. The home where I was born and raised was finally just a shell when last I saw it ..dark, abandoned and ready to be torn down for an Interstate. One thing I learned was said in a song by I believe Johnny Mercer..ANY PLACE I HANG MY HAT IS HOME ..and everywhere I lived was home ..because it isnt the house that makes it a home BUT THE PEOPLE My children all have homes of their own ,,and I cling to mine because it holds my memories They are making their own memories with thier husbands or wives and thier children as it should be. We inherited a lot of antiques from my husbands family, Over the years I have given some to each of my children , they are not only lovely things but quite valuable and I have told them, they are yours, keep them if you wish , pass them to your children if you wish or sell them ..I dont want them to feel they HAVE to keep them. I think they will but if the time should come and they need the money they represent then I want them to feel free to sell them. My spirit wont be hovering over them tsk tsking because the bottom line they are JUST THNGS ..when I die my last thoughts wont be on some antique ..but the people I have loved , they are my real treasures ..From all I have read and I havnt read past the 6th chapter yet .. all the characters are so real to me because I have known them all in real life.. and who can say one is wrong and the other right. Because we all need to find our own place, our own destiny.

    MAM writes in such a way for me I feel I am reading a family history..mine..now that is unique...anna

    Mary Alice Monroe
    October 3, 2005 - 06:11 am
    Here is is, the first Monday in October and I am delighted to join Seniornet's discussion! I will try to visit frequently this month.

    It is interesting for me to read the comments. You all are astute readers! Annafair's comments concerning antiques touched home to me. I live with antiques that have been in the family for many generations and every hurricane season I worry what will happen should a big storm hit. Yet, I love living with the furniture of family. Sigh. At the end of the day, they are all only things. After we all watched the tragedy of Katrina and Rita, we saw how all that truly mattered was family. And therein lies the heart of Sweetgrass. What is family? What are the ties that bind? This is a difficult realization, however. Like Ginger's tree (above), when we think of the loss, our hearts grow heavy.

    October 3, 2005 - 12:05 pm
    Welcome, Mary Alice, we are so glad to have you, what a great question, thank you for it! Neat, I love this, usually we ask the author a question but Mary Alice has already answered so many I feel hesitant to ask anything ahahaha I'll put that one up immediately, it's a good one! What IS family, that's an excellent question in 2005!!!!!

    What an interesting premise also, all that truly matters is family. We find that out in emergencies, as we've seen, and as Mary Alice has mentioned but we don't remember it all the time. Wonder why not? Wonder what gets in the way of it? Preston, at this point, doesn't seem to know it, does he? Is that because he takes his family for granted? Or?

    Great new tack here this morning.

    And how about other relationships, too?

    Like June and Nona, that's a very interesting relationship the two women have, I am interested in exploring it, and I loved the bit where Nona's daughter seemed NOT to understand, this is a rich book.

    Ella, good point, how can one take sides, but it's that taking of sides which causes so many problems I'm thinking.

    Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, interesting thoughts from Seneca, dead almost 2000 years. I liked your take on the only hiding place anybody has.

    Marjorie, and Anna, good points on "dysfunctional" as a label, and on the family that we idealize as real? There's a book called The way We Never Were, about how television portrays families that never existed making the rest of the country feel somehow dysfunctional and inadequate, it's quite interesting reading.

    I think in today's world the kind of 8 generations home is something very few if any of us have experienced. We live in an increasingly mobile society and people move all the time. The idea is to carry yourself with you, but some long for a sense of "home." If Home is Where the Heart is, what's wrong with Preston , then, for wanting it all?

    I agree, Hats, well done, Preston is scared, I caught that too, and I liked your take on the foreshadowing of is illness, he's trying to keep the paths straight but they keep getting crooked, kind of like my day here actually, sometimes it seems like Sisyphus, doesn't it?

    Oh wonderful point about the reassessments, the failure to do that well caused Preston his stroke, I am thinking.

    Hats, what a beauful personal story about your mother's fabric! I love that. I agree with you about wishing I had asked more questions of my own mother, they lived such interesting lives, but for some reason didn't seem to think they were worth talking about. For some reason my mother told me the stories when I was small, but not my children so that they don't know them now unless I tell them, but I'm passing them on the best I remember them, she had quite a life, too.

    Oh good point, also Judy, that Mary Alice Monroe is so good we can see what she writes about, I really could see that gate when Morgan drove up to it, I agree.

    I also agree that today everybody is considered dysfunctional, it's the buzz word, and has been, for a long time. Nobody says what is normal tho? Unless it's Dr, Phil or something and he gets on my nerves shouting like he does, I guess I'm dysfunctional because his voice and the tone in it just about sends ME over the edge hahahaha Wonder what he'd say about that? Hahahaha

    Hahaha Judy, if one of your kids or their wives were not angry at you you would not know what to do, you are a hoot!

    I LOVE the thought of you under the blanket in the storm with Mary Alice's book!!! That is beautiful, I'm going to put it in the heading! Hahahaah you guys are outdoing yourselves here!

    Andrea, good point about the contrast in the peace following a storm!

    Ginger, Welcome!! Oh good parallel to the Prodigal Son, well done! Your story of your old home place and the Memonites reminds me of what Billy Crystal said about his house (which dominates the stage in his performance), he said other people live in it now, but that's OK because he's always going to hear his mother no matter who lives in it.

    (What a contrast to what my poor children will probably remember, one story they like to tell is one day my oldest, Scott, kept hearing me call him. He kept asking my husband if that was me calling, did he hear me calling? No, my husband did not. But he did hear a chicken squawking, SCRRATTT??? SCRATTT??? and believe it or not THAT is what my poor child thought was me?)

    Some memory for those kids, huh? Hahaha Mother sounds like a screeching chicken? Hahahaa

    Good point Andrea on the big three: land, family and wallet!

    Threat to any one of those causes a major blood pressure spike, I think!

    Ginger, I am sorry for your tree, that was a heck of a nice tree to cut down, people don't care about trees the way they used to, I don't think, or do you?

    Just cut it down it will only take about 100 years to grow another like it. Don't know what people think sometimes!

    Oh Andrea that was beautiful! I feel the same way at the beach, too doggone bad we live in the Piedmont but I love the ocean. I'm afraid if I did live at the beach tho I'd do nothing but walk on it all day long and watch the waves.

    SandyRose, welcome, welcome, so you were angry at Mama June when she was a college girl, this will be interesting. We discussed Ann Tyler's book and I became so enraged at the protagonist it was all I could do to keep from screaming, nobody else seemed to feel that way, it will be interesting to compare how we all felt about her, and why!

    Anna, that's beautiful too, about how you won't be hovering over your antiques, they are just things. But they symbolize something, I think, other than being just THINGS. When you look at them you and Mary Alice, they mean SOMETHING. I agree the characters seem real, almost painfully so in some cases.

    I loved that comment by Mary Alice in her post too, did you all catch it? "The furniture of family."

    It suddenly occurred to me while watching the results of Katrina and Rita, that I need to do something with the family photos, we're not likely to have a flood but a tornado would carry them off. I am not sure what to do with them, tho? Even if I go to the trouble of scanning them all in a computer, tornadoes can carry those off, too.

    Let's look at some of these other characters too while we're at it.

    What's going on with Adele (do you pronounce that "Ah Dell" or "Adelay?")

    At the bottom of page 81 Adele says, "How nice of you to offer me my own porridge cup." Now this followed what I personally thought was a very nice gesture of June to Adele, what's going on here?

    Those of you who are accustomed to big families and sibling rivalries, does this seem normal or not to you? I'm an only child and grew up a long way from family, I don't know whether or not this type of thing happens and should be regarded AS normal or not? At the top of page 82, Adele puts back the cup (now here is where I could get way off on my horse about THINGS because silver porridge cups are way down, near last, on my list of important things, but again, they mean nothing TO me, that's the difference) but anyway she puts it back on the shelf "with a great show."

    Though she had never said so openly, it was clearly understood by both women that even tho Mama June owned Sweetgrass, she wasn't from Sweetgrass. And that fact was a major burr under Adele's seat.

    Why would that be a "major burr?" What could she logically expect? And why didn't she just take the stupid cup when it was offered? I am not sure I understand her motivations, do any of you?

    It seems that even tho this family makes deliberate efforts TO function as a family the least little thing seems to set them off. And there are PLENTY of things going on in the plot here. For instance, the idea that June has, starting on page 83, about bringing Preston home seems to set them all off again, why?

    How realistic is that idea? What traits does this crisis and this decision bring out in each character? I love the way the characters are each moving in their own circles and reacting and yet it doesn’t take 990 pages to talk about each one like it would me. Note Nan on page 79, suddenly noticing that her husband Hank seems nervous about this family gathering (I would probably be throwing up if I had to be around these people), "Had he really been made to feel so much an outsider over the years?")

    And again another theme, the theme of not belonging, first June, then Hank, who else? Let's keep track of this theme, too. Is there anybody else that feels he or she does not belong? Who in fact, feels that they DO belong? I thought also it was interesting that Mary June felt a kind of "separateness" as they were bringing Preson home and everybody was running out to meet him, did you notice that? On page 104? Belonging or not belonging also seems to be a theme here, or so it seems to me.

    It's really interesting. The characters are sort of spinning, first in their own circles, then in a broader circle as they engage each other, then they bang into this or that obstacle or crisis and they whirl in a different direction, engaging all of them, and changing, it's fascinating, I think.

    The concept of bringing somebody home to be cared for after a stroke or other illness is one which is fraught with angst. THIS is one area where I really could not take sides. We have all seen both sides of this kind of situation and people blaming themselves, perhaps unnecessarily, when they could not do what June is about to try, and it's going to be interesting to see how June accomplishes it, and how that comes about. I thought the scene as chapter 6 closes with them on the porch holding hands, and him sighing in peace was quite moving, it's definitely richly layered.

    So here's another new question to go with Mary Alice's What is Family in the heading today:

  • 10. On page 83, Mama June announces that she's decided to bring Preston home. The reaction is not what she expected.

  • How realistic is that idea? What traits does this crisis and this decision bring out in each character? What do their reactions tell the reader about each of them?

  • Did June have a choice in bringing Preston home? Why or why not?
  • annafair
    October 3, 2005 - 01:43 pm
    When I was little a LONG time ago almost everyone I knew died at home You only went to a hospital if there was a possibility of getting well AND most people were waked at home too. Having a viewing at a funeral parlor was fairly new,

    My father died at home and my husband did as well but I suspect that wont happen to me ..My mother was there for my father and I was still at home..While everyone pressured me to move my husband to a hospice (not my immediate family but others ) and none of my family even considered it ..they took personel time off from their jobs and just came and stayed ..True the end was not drawn out but still a week plus the funeral tied up everyone for two weeks ..

    I think we all have choices ..some are more rigid than others and some are flexible .. Mama June had what she considered a rigid choice for her there was no other . but the others the choice which was really not theirs to make was one they felt they could handle best if Preston was in a caregiver place. . I refuse to read to the end and YOU HAVE NO IDEA how that is hard not to do ..but I shall wait and like we all have to wait in life and just hope and pray in the end all will be solved and will be right..anna

    Ella Gibbons
    October 3, 2005 - 05:07 pm
    Ginny, what would you do if you were left on the farm alone and the boys did not want it? I know how you love the farm, but there are choices to make in all our lives and many seniors here have had to make the hard one - to give up their homes to live closer to their children; some come from other states leaving life long friends behind. Sad choices!

    The phone call! To me that was a pivotal point in this book - the phone call from the very weak and ill man to the son he had not spoken to in years - a reaching out. One, of course, has to have read almost the whole book before you realize the impact of that phone call. How different this family's life would have been had that phone call been made earlier.

    Do we know if Mama June made efforts to get Morgan home before - did she ever visit him or write or call him? Certainly, being a loving mother, she must have tried, but I don't remember reading that.

    Thank you, Mary Alice Monroe, for coming into this discussion; it adds so much and your question about family is thought provoking. The tie that binds would be the love, the special love of family members.

    October 4, 2005 - 04:38 am
    I have thought and thought about Mary Alice Monroe's question about "what is family?" I think family is like the Sweetgrass baskets. A family is woven tightly together with love and care. The family is as necessary and important as a Sweetgrass basket.

    The Sweetgrass baskets woven by Nona and the other Gullah women are made sturdy to hold produce, small jars of jelly, medicines or just for beauty.

    A family holds our whole selves, the good, the bad and the ugly. Our secrets are held tightly within the family. In time, maybe not immediately, the bad and ugly thoughts and acts are forgotten and we are forgiven but we are always loved and we can always come home, like Preston and Mama June's oldest son.

    Like Ella wrote it's love that holds the family together. I would add that it's also love that allows the family to extend its arms to others and share that love. I could see this so well in the friendship between Nona and Mama June. I should say Nona's love for the whole family and their love for her.

    October 4, 2005 - 12:46 pm
    Hats, that's just beautiful! I hate to even post a message and spoil the spell, you should WRITE!

    I love coming in here in the afternoons. None of this hurry hurry you have to get there before 7 am stuff, just a nice afternoon sit down with some really bright minds to talk over the issues in a book, love it.

    This book has a lot of issues and I agree with Ella that Mary Alice has asked quite a question and added a lot to the discussion. You might think the answer is obvious: love. Maybe it's not.

    I think people are complex and operate on different levels, maybe within that love, I think it shows in different ways.

    For instance, Ella, you ask " Ginny, what would you do if you were left on the farm alone and the boys did not want it? I guess I'd be stuck on the farm alone and the boys would not want it.

    I guess I'd deed it over to the Conservancy which is what I'd like to do anyway? Assuming of course we manage to keep it till then, anything can happen as we've seen in Katrina in the blink of a tornado or eye. We've already deeded part of that in Georgia over. If it disappears, then I've had a quarter of a century to look at those trees, and I have enjoyed it. I don't think you ever own land anyway, but you're supposed to conserve it, and I hope that we've not run it down but helped it. But I have to tell you, I like the beach, too? Maybe moving a lot when you're young actually helps, what do you all think? Maybe it makes you more of a fatalist. Yes I love our farm, but it's my dream of Home. I think the children share it. Should that not be the case I like the beach, too. And I like England, I could live in Bruges, Belgium, all year round, they have a nunnery there that takes older women, do you think they'd take moi? Hahaah Don't answer that. hahaaaaaaaaaaaa

    At any rate, I realize others have made hard choices, and you have to applaud them for having that strength. I doubt I will have anything vaguely resembling it.

    Ella you have asked some super questions, I wondered that too, let's put that in the heading and be looking for it: did Mama June make an effort to get Morgan home? Do any of you remember? I seem to remember something about she tried to call him and he rebuffed her or am I dreaming it and she stopped? Do any of you recall reading that?

    It's not all on Preston. It should not be all on Preston, if it is, then why IS that, super points, as always our sharp eyed Ella!

    In fact, I was thinking about Preston today. I like to mull over what you all have said and see how it might fit in other ways. It occurs to me that the "blessed ties that bind" might be more than love, that is have more layers.

    Would you say, for instance that Adele is in deep loving bondage to June?

    It's interesting to me to think of those who do have some feeling of love in this thing and those who don't.

    Is it possible that Preston assumed the love part? That he doesn't have to think about it or struggle with it because when he made his commitment that's what it was, so he's trying in his own way to fight the threats he sees, never thinking for one minute that the threat might be internal?

    Or am I all wet?

    I don't think Preston is one dimensional and I don't think people are, either. If you have the basis of love then that does not mean you're not going to have problems, or not focus on love all the time. I'll be doggoned if I see LOVE between Adele and June at this point, on whose side? June's?

    How would YOU describe June at this point? Is she passive? Is she active or reactive?

    Oh good point, Ella on the Phone Call being a pivotal moment or point in the book! Let's all say what we think other pivotal moments might be! I'm going to say the stroke.

    Notice of taxes anybody can get. Not everybody gets a stroke because of them. Because of the stroke, Morgan came home. Because of the stroke, June had to learn a new way of doing things and the relationship between June and Nona was shown in a new light to June:

    "I realized I was no kind of friend to let you go through this alone. Not after all we've been through together. Now, I cant do all I used to—and neither can you. But together we'll manage. I'll come by to make sure the house is running smoothly and make certain you're not starving while you tend to your husband. And I'll lend an ear when you need it. It's the least any friend could do." (page 90).

    I think this relationship between these two women is extraordinary, but it seemed to start out differently when June first decided to take the way past the sweetgrass basket stand, didn't it? How long had it been?

    On the subject of choices, Adele doesn't seem to think June has any:

    "…everyone knows that Preston shielded you from financial decisions. You preferred it that way. Frankly, you can't afford to bring him home. There'll be medical costs, a decrease in family income and a rise in all of your fixed expenditures. You have to face the facts. You must consolidate and sell your assets." (page 84).

    I am not sure what Adele means here, why would there be a decrease in family income? They are …what 65 and 68? And what's in it for Adele, anyway? I can't figure her out, she actually, like Queen Mary, takes things here and there that she wants!!! Can you believe that?

    June says I can't sell Sweetgrass, "this isn't just about selling property. This is the family heritage. Preston has devoted his life to preserving it. Once Sweetgrass is gone, what will happen to us, to the family?"

    There's that question again, what is family? And there is Preston's concern again, and it's not love, or is it? Is family people you are attached to by blood or marriage or can it be something else? Is it the notion of a house and land or is it something else? It's a good question to ask in 2005, post Dan Quayle, anyway.

    Anna, good points about choices, and I remember the laying out in the parlor, too, of those deceased,

    So we have lots of great new focus points today, thanks to you all. What to you IS the pivotal point of what we've read so far? Is it the phone call? Is it the stroke? What ideas do you have about anything said here or in the heading, let's hear from YOU!!

    Ann Alden
    October 4, 2005 - 01:21 pm
    Briefly here, I think June's decision to bring Preston home for his rehab where he will be in the bosom of his family and his beloved "Sweetgrass" is the pivotal point of these beginning pages. From there the story unfolds about the past and the present days on the farm and in the wetlands. But his homecoming is one strong factor that good old Adele seems to dislike. Hmmmm, don't want to say out loud what I think of that b-----!

    Ann Alden
    October 4, 2005 - 02:18 pm
    Have mentioned your actual homes while growing up but when I think back on my family, I don't get a sense of place so much as a sense of people and family. I have written much about my parents and my grandparents plus others in the family. I seem to be able to describe them and their shenanigans and love overflowing, and the grudges that were sometime held for many years, in all of their various places of abode. There are my grandparents and their first home in Rankin, Illinois where they bought a huge old place which housed their growing family plus my grandmother's parents who lived with them. I so value a CD with my uncle's voice recording of the first Christmas in that house and the priceless piece of storytelling by this rascal uncle. I have newly taken pictures of that home in the tiny RR town. Seems like the houses or homes go with the people's stories. As a child, I have wonderful memories of the family in our lives but no particular sense of one central place or homestead.

    On my father's side of the family, I have the picture of my GGrandfather and his third wife and children in front of their new home on their farm in Union City, Indiana from the 1890's. I have stayed in that house many times when my aunt and uncle lived there. And, I took a picture of it in 1999 and one can view the many changes that were made. Its still a lovely old farmhouse but my family moved on as they aged and needed to be in town. This is more than I wanted to say here. For me, its nice to have seen some of the family homes but its the people that I remember and love to tell stories about. I can move anywhere with my memories and still feel at home. I hope my children feel the same way.

    October 4, 2005 - 02:26 pm
    I just finished chapter 6 and find a lot of the comments here very interesting.

    I had to smile when I read about the poridge cup disappearing. I have four children and on several occasions when we have all assembled together I find something missing after everyone has left, usually old family pictures. There is never any question of who takes them. I never say anything because this child is the most generous and giving of all my children.

    I don't think we should be too hard on Adele as every person tends to view things differently. There may be some jealousy and pettiness on her part, but maybe she feels entitled to feel way. After all she grew up in the house and probably still feels very attached to it.

    October 4, 2005 - 02:39 pm
    Welcome Denjer! I love your perspective, and I hope to hear more. I love it when we all have different ideas to share, so don't be so hard on Adele, huh? We'll do an Adele o Meter at the END of the book, by then we may all have changed our minds.

    Adele at this point is quite negative, or she's presented that way, so it seems to me, I'm trying to keep track of how the characters come across and now am obsessed with trying to figure out how I'd describe Mary June to somebody over the phone. Pre stroke. How would you describe her pre-stroke?

    And again Denjer makes the point about the importance of this house to people, including Adele, so glad you're here! But then Adele seems to relish the idea that it would be sold?

    I am not figuring out Adele, you'd think that would be the last thing on her mind, is that the only way she feels like she'd get any of it or is she spiteful enough to want to see June lose it?


    Ann, haha you are so funny so Adele is not one of your favorite people apparently haahaha, but I loved your last sentence!! Beautiful!

    That's also a very good point about houses with people attached as memories, loved the CD story! Everybody has to live their own lives, after all. I've got a super photo of my grandmother outside the house her brother built for her, it's a pretty house, two stories but she is what meant something to me, not it. That's not what I think Preston is trying to convey, but I'm beginning to wonder, reading all of your posts, what he's sacrificed for that burden.

    What beautiful posts you all make, I'm in AWR as the Sopranos say, of you all!

    October 5, 2005 - 06:16 am
    If I were talking about Mama June on the phone, I would say Mama June is ready to control her life. She's not going to sit back and be told what to do and when to do it anymore.

    So, when Adele tries to decide what should happen to Preston during his illness. Mama June speaks up. Mama June wants Preston home and that's where he goes for his convalescence. During the marriage, I have a feeling that, once upon a time, Mama June might have been emotionally afraid of Adele.

    So, to me, this is a pivotal point in the book. Mama June gaining her voice. When I think of Mama June's name, I think of beautiful blooming flowers in June. Seeing roses and other blossoms bloom in the summer is overpowering. The colors of the blooms just wakes me up. When Mama June speaks up, I think she is going to wake the family up.

    It's like Mama June has been asleep. I think this is what happened to her relationship with Nona. It suffered from a lack of tending. Nona and Mama June became lost in the concerns of their own backyards.

    While Mama June "slept" life continued. Now Mama June is awake and she's going to pick up the pieces. I guess Mama June might be a little bit like Sleeping Beauty.

    Ella Gibbons
    October 5, 2005 - 06:28 am
    Hello Hats! Good points - I must go back and read these chapters again; friendships do need tending and June and Nona had neglected that it seems.

    I am still of the opinion that the phone call from Preston to Morgan was the saving grace for the family and the family home.

    Would Morgan have come home if his father had not made that call? Was his father's stroke enough to bring him home? I doubt that as he had not been in touch with or concerned about his parents and their lives for years. But the phone call touched a broken chord in his heart and thus began the mending.

    October 5, 2005 - 06:44 am
    Hi Ella,

    I agree with you and with all the pivotal points listed up in the heading. Is it possible that a saving grace or pivotal point has a chain reaction? I think that call to Morgan is very, very important. I also think the argument or disagreement on the porch between Mama June and Preston is important too. And sadly to say, Preston's stroke was a pivotal point or saving grace too.

    I think there must be more than one pivotal point or saving grace in a family. It's like missing a train or bus. If you miss one, you can always hop on the next one, we hope.

    So, maybe we can't nail this family's turning point down to one incident. How many times do we rub a stick against a stick to get a flame or fire? More than once?

    I have made many mistakes in my family. Sometimes I had too much pride to catch a hold of the first saving grace. It took me a time or two to get my bearings and gain my humility.

    October 5, 2005 - 06:58 am
    Good Morning, I've just read all the posts here, enjoying them all very much. Too much to comment on all at once, so . . . .

    Andy, I share your feeling about the beach. It may sound foolish, but I think if everyone lived by the beach there would be no wars, tho I don't know if history would bear me out there. Thinking back, for much of my life lived near water -- not always in sight, but there. Lake Michigan, the Atlantic, and the Missippi River.

    What brought Morgan home? He didn't get his father's message until several days after the fact because he had been away from his home. I think his sister Nan, and we haven't said much about Nan, called him and told him about the stroke. Will have to go back and check. I don't thnk Mama June called him. She was dumbfounded when he came home.

    Like some of you, my children really don't have a place to go "home" to as we moved several times and none of them lived for a long period of time where I have lived the past 28 years. but they have made their own homes.

    Denjer, I'm with you-- let's not be too hard on Adele yet, b _ _ _ as she seems. What does she have? A home? A family?

    One final thought -- I love my family, and each time I come here I get to know my grandchildren a little better. But right now, sitting in my son's house, I'm glad no one will be home until 4 pm.

    October 5, 2005 - 07:37 am
    I also wonder if Morgan's dash from home could be called a pivotal point or saving grace. I think Morgan went through a great deal of soul searching during his adventure with the Bison.I don't think it was possible for him to forget what was going on at home. The Bison needed saving and so did Morgan.Maybe Morgan saw himself in the Bison.

    Anytime a child or grownup leaves home, there is that feeling of emptiness and uncertainty. While Morgan was gone, I'm sure the Blakely's thought about him, themselves and how to restructure the family with him or without him.

    Mary Alice Monroe
    October 5, 2005 - 09:05 am
    Reading the comments in this wonderful discussion brings a tumult of emotions back to me, the same ones roiling inside of me as I wrote the novel. The writing process is often so intuitive. By the time I write, I've lived with the characters, their problems, their issues, etc. for so long the dialogue pours out of me. I structure my stories, know the themes, develop story arcs, outlines, etc. In the end, however, the writing is more like just closing one's eyes, plugging into the source, and taking dictation. Or, as someone once said--Writing is easy. You just open up a vein and let the blood pour over the keys.

    So, your comments are so fascinating to me. It is gratifying for me to see how my thoughts are, indeed, grasped by the readers. Symbols, too, for I use symbolism heavily in my novels. The storms, the gardens... Hats, your remark about Mama June not "tending the garden" is right on. You all will read later how Mama June stopped tending the kitchen garden, and the reasons why. This parallels her failure to tend to her family.

    The comments about dysfunctional families is right on, too. Rather than use that term, however, think about the opening of Anna Karenina.

    Happy families are all alike. Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. ...

    October 5, 2005 - 10:29 am
    MARY ALICE: I was blown away by your quote from Anna Karenina Happy families are all alike. Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. I haven't read that before but it just strikes a chord with me.

    HATS: You express yourself so well and I haven't read anything you have written I don't agree with. I don't see much to add. You have mentioned that Mama June is now "awake" and is "going to pick up the pieces" and you have suggested that there is more than one pivotal point and, even, the effect of Morgan leaving home on him and the rest of his family. Perfect.

    October 5, 2005 - 10:40 am
    Hi Marjorie,

    I can't believe Mary Alice Monroe is still here with us. This is such an unforgettable experience. Mary Alice Monroe, thank you again for answering and reading our posts.

    Marjorie, I have gained so much from your posts too. Really, I take something away from all of the posts. It just shows that Sweetgrass is a wonderful book.

    I am still pondering the meaning of "family."

    October 6, 2005 - 05:10 am
    Happy families are all alike. Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. I have read this quote before and came to the conclusion that what it really means is there is no such thing as a totally happy family.

    MARY ALICE, you do an excellent job of protraying the many dynamics that figure into the relationships of a family. Thank you for dropping into this discussion again.


    October 6, 2005 - 04:37 pm
    Hats, another great pivotal point, will put that in the heading, too!

    I also got the feeling she's trying to assert herself, up until now she seems to have been somewhat buried under all these proactive people. I'm going to be interested to find out how and why she got this way.

    I absolutely LOVE your analogy to Sleeping Beauty, I have hesitated to put in my own phone call description, I'm going to watch her and see what happens in her own character development first, see if I see any change, you have just pointed out a significant one!

    Another great question, Ella, what do the rest of you think? Would Preston's stroke have been enough to bring Morgan home without the phone call?

    Good question!!

    HATS! How interesting on the possible chain REACTION of pivotal points!

    Welcome, Pedln!! We are so glad to see you here!

    I know if I lived by the beach there would be nothing but walking and looking at the water, I'm a positive slug at the beach!

    Oh and good point about Adele, very telling: what HAS she got? Excellent point!

    Hats! Another pivotal point, good for you, loved this one: "The Bison needed saving and so did Morgan.Maybe Morgan saw himself in the Bison."


    Mary Alice, that was beautiful, the characters seem so real you really almost want to ask who IS that, that you know so well that you could bring them to life on the page like that.

    Denjer and Marjorie, I agree, and I have been thinking about that statement too, why would that be true?

    I agree with Denjer, I am so enjoying having Mary Alice here and the whole thing is almost like a novel, it's a unique experience and good GRIEF, tomorrow is our last day in the first section!

    Now I love chapters 7-11 and can't wait to get to them, to me they are completely different from the first 6 and I can see some really well developed character (ARCS!!) as Mary Alice talks about in the heading, boy can I relate here to a lot of what's said too, but we have ONLY one more day to talk about the first 6! WHAT in the first 6 chapters did YOU notice that we have not talked about?

    I'm seeing a lot more symbolism also as I reread the first 6 chapters, did you catch the "roiling line of clouds rolled overhead like the closing of a curtain?" A curtain closes! (page 17) And that occurred immediately after Mama June in a flash of pique declared that it would be good riddance and that she despised the land!

    And then the storm breaks and he throws the papers into it. Sharing a burden is another theme here, the entire concept of being a burden, and I am seeing some new ones in the next section too.

    But now Nan has her own problems, and I'm not sure if this is, in these first few chapters, another example. Notice on page 43, how Nan thinks , we must get straight who the narrator is, omniscient third person?

    They just didn’t get it. Matters of family didn't register. She was sick to death of listening to their endless sports reports or excruciating details about cars. Sometimes she felt as thought she were talking to herself throughout the meal, desperately trying to engage them in conversation while they ignored her and shoveled food.

    Well anybody who lives with men would laugh on that one and pass over it, I did, but now I've come back to it and I'm seeing something else, about Nan's own needs for closeness in the family and her own attempts at communication. And how she, in her own way , is trying to make right years of Blakeley life torn apart by the death of her brother.

    Then she tries to say she does have a family on page 44 and what happens? Hank throws cold water on that one, too. You know Martha Stewart's new tag line is "you just don’t fit in," I'm beginning to think maybe Nan has some problems with this, especially when we read that when she sold her part of the land, a separation occurred between her and her father, seems like this small family has a lot of separation going on, doesn't it? And it's extending to all of the members, Morgan who is alone, Nan, Hank (remember him in the car approaching the Blakeleys for Sunday lunch?), I bet each of these characters feels that to some extent.

    And then there's the question and I think this might be another theme, of unanswered questions. Morgan feels this particularly in page 53, he's not gotten the answers he's sought. What were the questions, I wonder?

    What about Nona, we haven't said anything about her and her history, and I really liked the dynamic between her and her daughter Maize.

    On page 70, we have this dialogue:

    "You think you know everything just because you got that college degree. Well there's a lot to know about people and life that you can't learn in books."

    Now there's a conversation starter. Do you agree with Nona or not?

    And I'm going to keep my own opinions of "Mama" June till the end of the book, she seems to be changing as Hats says, awakening, and I expect that's by design, I'd like to watch and keep track of each of these characters, what they seem to be in the first chapters and how they change, grow, or develop. If I had to describe her in a phone call today I don't think it would be very flattering, so I'm going to hold that for a bit because she certainly changes in this next set, the question is why?

    Also let's not ignore the bits of additional information at the head of each chapter, on sweet grass basket making. What can you find out about this? How much do they cost? (Isn't that a sweet photo of Mary Alice Monroe on the back cover with her own basket?) why didn't we get one when we were there? Did any of you? I want one, now!

    Let's talk in our last day Friday about any or all things in these first six chapters that interest you.

    Which character, in your opinion, is the strongest so far?

    Ella Gibbons
    October 6, 2005 - 04:50 pm
    Morgan is such an interesting character (The years of wandering has not brought him the answers he'd hoped they would) and we don't know in these beginning chapters much about him - I found his observations interesting on his return to his home; he found the Southern colonial house awaiting him like a charming belle - "petite, pretty and eager" and he remembered his father remarking that the house had "pluck."

    Then he sees his mother, after a long absence, and she also is petite, pretty, and has "pluck" and Morgan wonders if his father has made that comparison. And the reader wonders if Preston loves the house and the wife equally?

    Has Morgan's parents had a good marriage? Morgan observes they have separate bedrooms; is this a sign of a deteriorating relationship or just age related?

    Mama June (Ginny, I don't know why she is called "Mama" either) is 66 years old and she considers herself to be an "elderly woman" (pg. 66). Good heavens! I'm almost 77 and I don't think of myself as elderly yet, what about the rest of you?

    As for Adele, Nona and I agree, I dislike the woman and her designs on Sweetgrass.

    Ella Gibbons
    October 6, 2005 - 04:53 pm
    We were posting together, Ginny, and I will read your post later - about time for me to be thinking of the evening and getting set for bed.

    October 6, 2005 - 04:56 pm
    You ask who is the "strongest" character in the first 6 chapters. I think that depends upon the definition of "strongest." Is that the most "powerful" or the most "influential" or the most "confident" or the most ... You get the idea.

    And I could ask the "strongest" in what sphere? Are we talking about all the characters together or the Blakeley family or the individual homes?

    I think Adele wants to be the most influential and certainly she doesn't understand why she isn't. Nona has strength because she knows "all the players" and isn't intimidated by any of them. Hank, in his smaller sphere, dominates because he just assumes that is his right -- he is the man in his house after all. And then there is Kristina who moves with a quiet confidence in her professional capacity.

    October 6, 2005 - 06:41 pm
    I think some Southern families do this as a way of respect for the Mother. I have a friend, Margaret, whose closest family members and friends call her Shug--except for all the younger generations, including DILs, who call her Mama Shug.It's just a way of life in some families.

    Ella, I agree that Mama June is not old (and neither is Preston, for that matter). I am 68 and am only "middleaged". When I told my 44 y.o. son this, he asked me what that made him. I told him he could be what ever he wants. Sometimes I feel like he's older than I am!

    <Ginny writes:On page 70, we have this dialogue:

    "You think you know everything just because you got that college degree. Well there's a lot to know about people and life that you can't learn in books."

    Now there's a conversation starter. Do you agree with Nona or not?

    This has a ring of truth to it--and was said to me in this way when I was in high school: Sue, you're very smart, but you just don't have horse sense (common sense). At the time I think it was probably very true. Sue

    October 6, 2005 - 06:44 pm
    You make an excellent point in your reply to Ginny:


    You ask who is the "strongest" character in the first 6 chapters. I think that depends upon the definition of "strongest." Is that the most "powerful" or the most "influential" or the most "confident" or the most ... You get the idea.

    Right now I haven't decided on the first 6 chapters, but June, Nona, Kristin, and Adele are all candidates in one way or another. Sue

    October 7, 2005 - 06:10 am
    I was raised on farms in Wisconsin and many of the families were second generation immigrants from Germany and Switzerland. They took pride in how well they ran the farms and in being centennial farms (in the family for 100 years or more). Most of the women were strong people who worked tirelessly from sunup to sundown and got little in return. The man on the farm always got the credit for a prosperous farm and being smart enough to marry a good woman who got up at 5 in the morning to help milk cows, assist with loading hay bales, keep a sizeable vegetable garden and lawn and a spotless house. Times have changed there and I see the family-run farm slowly disappearing because of suburban sprawl and other economic issues. For some giving up the family farm is a bitter pill to swallow. I've personally seen big riffs in families because none of the children want to take over the farm as they did. The old homestead has become more important to them than their family relationships and I wonder, did they really do this for their children or for themselves?

    October 7, 2005 - 10:22 am
    OH beautiful post, Denjer and so true on so many counts, I especially liked your last point about who were they doing it FOR because I think the book addresses that and we may all learn something here before we're thru, I am certain I will!

    Another interesting point you made was about the uncommented on labor that women gave to the running of farms, and who should get the credit when the farm did work, beautiful post. A recent issue of Progressive Farmer says that WOMEN increasingly are taking over the running of farms, that should not be a surprise, wonder if that article is online, I'll look!

    Marjorie good point, I think Sue answered that one best in that we'll all decide for ourselves which aspect of strength we think applies, who would you say? And for what reason?

    Strong in the sense of being prominent or most memorable, OR in the sense of being strong as a person, that's quite a difference, isn't it? Strong and true characterization or strong in the sense of forthright? A lot of considerations, good point!

    Sue, and Ella, when I think of Mama, somebody called Mama, I think of a big boisterous family with lots of happy kids around, but I think you are right, and thank you for adding that information about Southern respect, does she call herself that, I thought I saw that last night, I'll run look again. They don't call HIM Papa Preston tho?


    Ella, how interesting you're focusing on Morgan. I am finding him the least interesting of the characters and I'm not able to get a grip on him, so I'll watch your lead here, he's like sort of an amorphous cloud to me, his mother's son in that regard, actually, when you think about it! I wonder if HE'LL emerge like Hat's Sleeping Beauty? There do seem to be signs?!?

    Interesting, what else would you like to comment on today? I have personally found stuff about "book larnin'" irritating in the extreme. Maybe because I know it's right? Hahahahaa Why can't you have BOTH? Which one would you personally want to be without?

    I also have been thinking about what Mary Alice said about her writing process, did you catch that? I liked that, very much.

    What else do you all want to add or point out here on our very last day in Chapters 1-6? Which is the most interesting minor character, to you?

    October 7, 2005 - 01:01 pm
    I think Adele is very interesting. Adele is so very, very bitter. Why is she so angry? If her feelings make the family uncomfortable or make the Blakely's squirm is it because she knows or is telling a bit of truth about the family clan? Is it possible that Adele has been wronged?

    Her feelings about why Preston should not come home aren't all hogwash. Her words held a bit of truth. Somehow I had already begun to hate her so her words just clanged nosily in my ears. I didn't want her to say anything that made sense.

    It's hard to listen to the most angry person in the family. I just get this feeling that I need to know more about Adele.

    Denjer, maybe I am thinking like you about Adele. Adele needs a chance. I need to hear her. For example, to Adele it's not just a porridge cup. The porridge cup is a lasting impression of something that did or didn't happen in the family.

    Ginny, I see why you asked for a closer look at the meaning of "family." A family is very complex.

    I really think Mary Alice Monroe's quote from Anna Karenina bears rereading by me. Can I compare my family's unhappy experiences to the Blakely's family or is every family's unhappy circumstances different? So, this must mean I must widen my view of the family. I can compare my family with the Blakelys, but my family is not the Blakelys. "Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. ... "

    October 7, 2005 - 03:25 pm
    I believe June had to bring Preston home for several reasons. First, there is the cost of rehab in a hospital or clinic--and Preston is surely on Medicare which means much of it won't be paid. And if the Blakely finances are as bad as they seem, they probably don't have medical insurance.

    Second, June is very affected by family and hopes that bringing him home will bring the family closer.

    Third, I believe June's guilty feelings--about moving into another bedroom, Morgan leaving home, her behavior following the death of her older son made it necessary for her to bring him home.

    As a caregiver who spent two long years knowing that my husband would ultimately die, despite the treatment, it meant a great deal to all of us to have him at home, except for the last week in the hospital. Thankfully we were able to stay there with him 24/7. So I can identify with June's need to have him at home. Sue

    October 7, 2005 - 03:43 pm

    I believe Mama June had to bring Preston home too. I would have acted in the same way as Mama June. I do believe when a family member becomes ill and might need to go away for nursing care a family takes two sides. It seems to divide a family.

    This happened in my family. When my husband's mother became ill, the family took two sides. Both sides had legitimate arguments. This is why I say Adele had a reasonable argument too.

    This is why I think Mama June didn't come to her decision easily. Didn't Morgan help her come to a decision? But yes, I certainly would have taken Preston home. It's just not an easy decision to make. Sue, you lived through it with your husband. I lived through it with my mother in law.

    Judy Laird
    October 7, 2005 - 03:50 pm
    I am back on the internet for the time being but now my phone's are out. Things aren't going too well here.

    My family which has never been close to normal is now making a grave mistake in my opinion. My sister has decided to move my Mother into a assisted living home without her knowing or conscent. Granted she has dementia. She plans to take her out I think this week-end(she has not spoken to me about this) for the day the guys will come in and move her bedroom stuff and my sister is going to take her to this place and dump her. I am sure it will kill her and if it doesn't I gave the care place 2 weeks to call and want us to take her back. Its horrible. Another thing that bothers me about this place is you can't visit for 3 weeks.

    October 7, 2005 - 03:57 pm
    I think my mother in law could feel all the tension and stress going on around her hospital bed. She never wanted to be taken to a nursing facility. She died before the family could remove her from the hospital. I think she just could not accept the possibility of what might happen.

    For myself, I would love to die at home. I think it's so much easier to die in peaceful and familiar surroundings.

    I think Preston improved because of Kristina's kind help and of course, knowing that Mama June was there beside him. Not to mention he was in the home and on the land he loved so much.

    October 8, 2005 - 06:38 am
    Well a bright good morning to all of you here in our second week, Chapters 7-11 boy are they good ones, aren't they? And here we're getting some background, some flashbacks and some vital information that helps, in part, explain Adele, Mama June, the Bluff area and a lot of other things.

    But first Judy, what a momentous event in your own family, will you share with our readers here who may not all know the circumstances of your own situation, it's a stunner.

    Hats, yes, I found myself more interested in the bitter Adele and I had to ask myself WHY! Hahahaha And yes the definition of family and the bit about angry families being the same still haunt me, we're not thru with those yet, I betcha!

    Sue thank you for that post, I think guilt is a big theme too, here in this book and I am interested in your separate bedrooms thing too, the selling of Sweetgrass and who would gain and who would lose are important here.

    (I just read yesterday and you won't believe this, I don't, but they now say that you can live on a cruise ship instead of in assisted living for only $2,000 more per year~!,) Assuming of course your mind is sharp? Can you believe that one?

    See next post for our new beginning, Patwest is going to put all of our first week's questions up on an HTML page and link it to this heading, so if they disapperar, don't worry, we'll be keeping them , but now… Week II!!

    October 8, 2005 - 06:39 am
    I am so glad that our reading segment ended as it did, what a STUNNER! Holy smoke!

    A lot of things are falling into place now. I particularly love letters, that is reading over old letters and what they say and what they don't. Loved this section, something here for every person on earth to relate to, I hardly know where to begin?

    Does this or does this not bring back your own youth, your own dating days? And so well written, too, not mushy or maudlin, just right.

    Did you marry your first love? If not what happened to him or her? Have you been able to find out?

    Have you ever known anyone like Tripp? Sometimes called Trey in some families, he IS a trip, isn't he? Loved the dynamic between the brothers, and oh BOY Adele! They used to be friends? Roomies?

    Now if we have any questions for Mary Alice, let's put them in the heading separately. Although I feel bad ABOUT asking her any, since she was so gracious in the Interview, you'd think none are left. That's not so! So we'll put them in red or crimson in the heading so that she can easily pick them out.

    I want to know why Wofford, why not Converse, that would seem to me to be more likely for Mary June given her background, so I want to ask that one, I know there's a good reason.

    I want to know why "Mama" June?

    I've got a LOT of these questions, but I felt in reading this thing a huge web being spun of the characters. Here we get to see Nan, here we get to meet Tripp, here we see Preston and Tripp and to hear Adele say, "Mama says I'm going to get the big house [Sweetgrass], seeing as how I'm the daughter and all." (Page 175>

    There it is.

    Now YOU may not attach much importance to physical homes and such, that may not mean anything to YOU, but what "Mama intended for ME to have" has split many a family in the middle, for good, actually.

    Actually psychiatrists now say it's helpful if the grown child, sometimes in their 80s, should approach the tomb of a long gone relative and tell them once and for all how they feel. Sounds bizarre, I know but they say it works. Some people REALLY do care about what "Mama" intended, and it's obvious that Adele feels cheated here, and resents here in the present, Mary Alice, very much. And it seems that there are other things she harbors a grudge about, let's list them, what would you say are some of the reasons revealed in chapters 7-11?

    Then there's the writing. Here and there throughout the text I have all sorts of memos: good writing! Really good writing! Hahahaa

    What is one example to you this morning of some really superior writing or descriptions YOU found in these chapters?

    "People should be rewarded for doing well, like Preston." (page 175) This is an interesting statement and I'd like to see if it, as a theme, is carried out in any of the characters, the notion that you should be rewarded for "doing well," and what "doing well" means to different people. I'd like to follow this one thru, did any of you see any other themes in this last section coming up?

    What is a Moses basket?

    What do you know about the beat poet Jack Kerouac? Have you ever read anything he wrote? Bring here something he's said so we can all see it.

    "You fool, " she murmured, looking deeper into her own eyes. " You poor old fool." (page 209)_

    One of the somewhat grounding experiences OF growing old is the realization that no matter how much passion we may have brought to this or that, or how much WE personally felt right, in retrospect, we have often been wrong, and not only wrong, disastrously so. There is no person who escapes this. Nothing shows this more than letters, which are an art form rapidly disappearing in the age of telecommunications and email.

    Why now, tho? Why should this character NOW be realizing that Tripp never loved her at all? Was that evident to you from reading the letters or did you need her to tell you? Why is she just now finding this out?

    A blade of sweetgrass (boy I was glad to hear they weren't yanking it out by the roots, I would like to see some now, wouldn't you?) for your thoughts this morning, and so much more, let's begin and hear from YOU?

    October 8, 2005 - 08:17 pm
    Since this is the second time I am reading Sweetgrass, I can't answer if I only knew Tripp never loved Mary June from the letters. I do think that the implication was there earlier. Tripp didn't seem to go out of his way to please Mary June. He expected her to do what he wanted. Preston made himself part of the excursions Mary June and Adele took and he invited them fishing. Adele, of course, didn't go fishing.

    I was disappointed in Mary June when she started mooning over Tripp. However, there wouldn't have been much of a story if that hadn't happened.

    From the beginning Mary June felt comfortable with Preston and found they could talk about anything. I liked reading about the time Mary June and Preston met and what they did together when she first visited Sweetgrass. It helped me to understand why Mary June has such love for Preston while he is sick.

    I enjoyed the beginning of Chapter 11 where Nan sits with her father and remembers what it was like when she was growing up and her father is her hero. She felt abandoned when she married and her father "gave her away" to Hank. I think she is getting back some of the closeness she felt before she married. I like her better this way.

    October 9, 2005 - 05:46 am
    I didn't want Mary June to fall for Tripp either. At a much, much younger age, I knew guys like Tripp. Tripps had that type of charm a girl could not ignore. In junior high, I remember John Jones. Every girl in school loved him. He was sooo cute. His grades? By golly, he didn't have the sense to come in out of the rain. He stayed in the same grade forever!

    Most girls, for some reason, at that age don't think of stability or intelligence. It's how the guy can wear a tee shirt, bat a homerun and whether he looks out of this world cute.

    Thank goodness there are Prestons around to save us from ourselves. I am awfully glad my senses glued together and I married a Preston. My Preston is still good looking to me. My husband is also very smart. I know he meant our marriage vows because his actions show it everyday.

    Poor Mary June her heart fell to her feet and she didn't catch it in time.

    October 9, 2005 - 01:34 pm
    I need to be more organized .. I set my copy of Sweetgrass aside since I didnt want to read ahead and when I went to resume reading I COULDNT FIND IT ..This morning I finally found it after searching everywhere I KNEW IT MUST Be and then spent the time to read up to 11..I havent read 11 yet.

    I must say all of the characters in this book seem true to life to me..I come from a large family ..aunts ,uncles, cousing, in some cases the spouses of my cousins,..and I can see in the characters of Sweetgrass the personalities of so many of MAM's characters, my family members.

    One distinct advantage of someone being allowed to die at home is the support system you find, It took 2 1/2 years for my husband to succumb to complications of melanoma ..he was given 8-9 mos to survive when diagnosed but as you can see survived much longer. I give credit to both of us, to our family , to friends who stayed postitive right down to the last day ..and he was home. Neighbors left fesh baked rolls at our door, I had enough pre prepared meals in the freezer gifts from any number of people. And the last week of his life I alerted our church and the choir where he had been a member for 22 years if they wished they could come in and say goodbye,.I could not stay in the same room but our children did and they practiced thier song for the coming Sunday there and my children said Daddy smiled and "sang" with them.. My youngest son;s boss even came and sat in the bedroom and they chatted , well other people did the chatting but my husband would smile and say when something funny was said That's a good one" our neighbor across the street whose children were "our first grandchildren" came and the youngest one who was nine came over after school each day and would sit on pillows on my side of the bed and read her assignment for the next day,. He was a very social person and I know he felt we had not buried him while he was alive but allowed him to live until that minute when he left.

    In fact a lot of people would just make themselves comfortable on my side of the bed and talk ,..his conversation was limited but he would nod and smile and we could all tell he was enjoying still being part of life, So it is my hope that this is a gift my family and friends can give to me someday.

    However some of my friends were nearly 80 when their mother needed more care than they could give her .,.so they had to place her in a care center.. but they visited every day and and many of thier friends including myself visited them often and they were allowed to bring her home for day time visits .> She loved them but was glad to return to the care center by evening. So what to do is not easy and often depends on the health and ability of the person who must be the caregiver , I would not fault anyone for making that decision,

    Ilived in the south for a number of years and my mother and her siblings were all born in the south and many of them stayed there .. Most of my cousins had two names ..many dropped one when they left the south and moved north, But I know I am a NANA by courtesy to some young people who are not related to me by birth but by heart and they call me Nana Anna so Mama June doesnt seem odd to me. Maybe MAM can tell us why???

    Before I misplace my book I am going to read Chapter 11 and then read this coming weeks chapters ....I am reaching a point where I DONT WANT TO WAIT .. anna mae ( my southern name )

    October 9, 2005 - 06:59 pm
    I've never seen one, but I'm almost positive a Moses basket is sized for a baby--like the one the baby Moses was in when Pharoah's daughter found him in the bullrushes. African Americans in the South are very much in tune with Old Testament stories. I think a sweetgrass Moses basket would be a lovely bed for a baby--and so handy for toting the baby from room to room or place to place. Sue

    October 10, 2005 - 09:31 am
    I've been out of town for the whole weekend and have spent a good part of my day catching up on the posts here. They are all very interesting. I had a hard time with Mary June's decision to run after Tripp. Then again didn't we all make decisions when we were young that we regretted later? Haven't we all wondered at times how things would be different if we'd made a different decision and taken a different path somewhere along the way?

    Ella Gibbons
    October 10, 2005 - 11:30 am
    Change is inevitable in all our lives and very difficult for some of us, particularly when we are older, and we see this in these chapters. Just as the weather outside is changing - so, too, does the atmosphere of the house, with Preston "a mere silhouette of the man she once knew," the house becoming more of a nursing home, the dog remaining in the house for Preston's sake and Nan and Morgan both discussing old times and the way it used it be.

    With change comes the realization that children may have to make decisions for their parents who are unable to face the future; one very ill and one in despair, and the difficulties arising out of the fact that they disagree.

    The pages describing June's memories of her first visit to Sweetgrass and the thrill of meeting Preston, being entranced by the plantation house, feeling as if she was experiencing "deja vu" all were examples of MAM's writing skills - I loved them.

    "So many years had passed since that afternoon. Yet sitting on the side of his bed, Mama June wondered if she'd had many moments in her life as pure as that one in a flat-bottomed boat. She felt again the girlish rush she'd felt that day...."

    I have had such moments - happiness seems to come in "moments" - unforgettable ones.

    Gosh, I can't remember how to copy from my clipmate a site that shows a picture of a sweetgrass basket and gives the history of them.

    Ginny! Help, help. I have the site on my clipmate - how do I get it here? Forgetfulness is another trait we experience as we age and I need to remember - help!

    October 10, 2005 - 11:39 am
    Ella, you have to sort thru the clipmate little entries till you find it and then be sure it's highlighted and when you hit paste it will show up?

    You have to look thru them all and see if you can find it, back in mo with more thoughts on what you all have said.

    Ella Gibbons
    October 10, 2005 - 02:18 pm
    Thanks, Ginny, I'm going to try it! How quickly one forgets!


    Mary Alice Monroe
    October 10, 2005 - 02:32 pm

    Mary Alice Monroe
    October 10, 2005 - 02:50 pm
    Hello all! I am enjoying this discussion very much. I'll try to comment as well as answer some questions.

    A Moses basket is a long basket that a baby can sleep in. Many have handles for carrying.

    The name June with a precedent name is common here. ie: Sarah June, Mary June. And calling a mother "mama" is also common. When I heard someone referred to as Mama June, it all clicked. I KNEW that was her name.

    I should have had Adele and Mary June go to Converse in the 1950s!

    I just returned from a family wedding. What a glorious celebration. Some of my best moments were when my siblings and I sat and remembered stories from our youth. Yes, the past is recalled in a series of moments. I once read that we tend not to remember the sad times. When we recollect the past, we remember the happy moments. I think this is true. At least it is for me. Those special moments shimmer bright.

    In Sweetgrass, Mama June had to journey through the past--the good and the bad--to reach truth. She was lost in the fog of a hazy past because of false memories or deliberately discarded/avoided ones. After all, she followed her mother's advice of, "don't think of that now." I think many people do this from time to time. In her case, the tragedies of Tripp's and her son's deaths were overwhelming. I sympathize with that kind of loss.

    I see Mary June as a kind hearted, somewhat naive though intelligent girl who was swept away with love and the heady idealism of Tripp. As some of you said, it is part of being that age. But Mary June grew up. Part of Mama June's journey was to remember WHY she fell in love with Preston, and in remembering, she fell in love with him all over again.

    October 10, 2005 - 03:16 pm
    I think the reason some Senior Net readers have not understood Mama June's romance with Tripp is our age. By now, we are much more practical with our eyes wide open to unconventional behavior. However, at 19, I, as well as Mary June, was attracted to the unconventional and romantic behavior of men who were less conventional than the ones we ended up with as husbands. Youth has a way of overlooking dangerous behaviors--Tripp's drinking and quick moodiness, for example. Sue

    October 11, 2005 - 12:44 pm
    Maybe Adele is also angry because her parents treated her differently from Preston and Hamlin, her brothers. Some families do feel that the males in the family are better qualified to take care of important matters. Girls, they feel, should just marry and find another man to replace their father. This might make a girl feel pushed aside.

    October 11, 2005 - 12:48 pm

    Thank you for the link.

    October 11, 2005 - 12:51 pm
    I believe this book is influencing my life and I'm the last person on earth I thought would BE.

    For instance I can't look at our black lab Ibbo in the house and not think of Preston and Blackjack and worry what would happen if our dog was not here. Our dog is in the house with the exact same circumstances except the dog was the one injured, somebody shot him in the face, if you can imagine such a thing. We live on a farm and have three big black lab mixes but somebody shot him apparently on our own property so after all the famous vet restorations and specialists of course he had to come inside. Same considerations, exactly, it's as if Mary Alice had been a fly on the wall ,and NOW, I had to laugh when Mama June got hurt when she did her thing, timidly tried to make contact with Preston, how breathtaking THAT scene is, and he reached for the dog! Hahaha There's NO question in this house! Hahahaha That DOG and man have bonded.

    In fact the other night W was out burning the trash and there was a huge explosion , I did not hear it but the dog went nuts and came down to the bedroom door and barked until he got me up, quite different from the times he'll bark when W is gone and he sees or hears something, he was absolutely determined to get me to the window looking out at the barn where he stared worriedly. Finally W came in, it was just unreal.

    So yes I sure can relate.

    Another thing I can relate to is Mary June as a young innocent girl attracted to the wild 'un, weren't we all? We won't admit it now, but the more charismatic the better. Like the saying goes, you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find the prince. At our age we'd say oh good heavens that one will end up dead or worse, but to a sheltered young woman, that one looks like danger, excitement and savoir faire, and poor Mary June.

    Mary Alice, thank you for answering our questions and for explaining more about Mary June, I thought that bit about the college stuff was so well done. That IS what we did. I came to college in SC in the early '60's and yes we all went home with our roomies and the exact same stuff occurred, even to the boats, it was like reading a slice of my own life.

    Yes and there were quite a few innocent pregnancies at the time, it wasn't the same as it is now, I remember quite a few who were surprised, we really were a naïve bunch then? We really were, it was a simpler time.

    I am on fire to find out what happened to the baby AND the Bad Boy, well I know what happened to him, any of us could have told her.

    So in this section all of a sudden you all are talking about how you "like" Mama June more. I am thinking that's been deliberately done. We are seeing more of her tender side, the curtain, as you will, is being drawn back, not only of her past life but of her own personality, both she and Morgan are somewhat…well for that matter, so is Preston somewhat of a façade…well for that matter so was Adele, in the opening chapters. I nearly fell off my chair at the knowledge they had been FRIENDS and roomies, didn't seem to fit, deep book here, this book is DEEP, we're going to have to watch ALL of these characters and so far the divisions are just right.

    Thank you Mary Alice for writing so movingly of the wedding you just attended and sharing that joy with us, the whole page lit up, you certainly are in the right profession! I have a feeling we'll all learn a lot from this, but now to the meat of today!!

    October 11, 2005 - 02:31 pm
    GINNY: I had the same feeling you did about Mary June and Adele being friends and roommates. How did they connect then? What was it that held their friendship together?

    When I was first reading posts about falling for a "dangerous" guy when young, I didn't remember that happening. Just this minute I realized oh, yes indeed I did the same thing. I was in high school and dating a fellow who had been in the Navy in WWII. He was not a "nice guy" at all. I don't think that I expected anything to come of the relationship though. I do remember sneaking around to be with him. He was not the man I married (and 29 years later divorced).

    I married a man like my father. Did Nan do the same thing? Both Hank and Preston expected to make the decisions. Hank is definitely put out that Nan wants to help her father when he wants Preston to sell the ranch.

    October 12, 2005 - 03:54 am
    Weird coincidence. Last weekend when we were in Petoskey, Michigan, one of our friends made mention of the sweetgrass that grows on the dunes. I was quite started since I never heard of it before and I am assuming that it is not the same sweetgrass that grows near the ocean, but I am going to have to look into it further as I am now very curious. I don't think it can be the same sweetgrass mentioned in the book, but it is called that nevertheless. The whole Lake Michigan shoreline on the Western side of Michigan is sand dunes that have their own environment. The environment on these dunes is subject to some pretty harh weather off the Lake especially in the winter as the prevailing winds are from the southwest. There has always been a lot of discussion on preserving the delicate ecology of this area as more and more people are building along the lake to get the water frontage and in the process destroying a lot of the plant life.

    October 12, 2005 - 03:57 am
    Not every book but this book ...I am reading a John Grisham book right now along with Sweetgrass. It is an exciting book but I dont see LIFE in it ..Life is not made of grand things but small things,

    Before I met the man I married and cherished and was cherished for nearly 45 years I was engaged to a handsome young man who looked like Rock Hudson. He was romantic and I felt I had found a prize,But 6 months before the wedding date we were talking about the kind of marriage we would have ..and he said he wanted one like his father. Well that did it . when he left I was sick, I hated his father who was an arrogant person so unlike my gentle father, And a month later I returned his ring and cancelled everything. It was hard to do but one gift my mother gave me was the advice that there are worse things in life than never marrying. So I never felt I had to get married to be happy, Of course I did but I knew I could survive if I never married.

    Years later I had returned home for visit and drove through a local park, As I was driving I had to slow down because there was this young woman with a baby in her arms and a picnic basket in her hand and small child tugging at her skirts.While the husband was standing at the car door yelling hurry up. I has slowed to almost a stop and was mentally berating this man, When I came abreast of him I was stunned to see it was my"Rock Hudson" as soon as I passed I drove on to me destination and thought to myself "There but for the grace of GOd go I'

    Some of my friends did marry thier first beau but in remembering some of those failed sooner or later,

    To me the best thing about MAM's writing is I really feel I KNOW the people in the book, They seem real not fictional and that is a gift to the reader,.


    October 13, 2005 - 09:11 am
    Oh I have so enjoyed thinking about each of your posts and you've made some wonderful points!

    Ella, thank you for that link, are THOSE the examples of sweetgrass in the heading of that site? They are sort of pink? Is that the same thing as sea oats? As we can see I know nothing so I must learn more and want to hear from Denjer also!

    Denjer, isn't that the way always, now I am interested to hear about THAT "sweetgrass" too, it's amazing when you read one book how many times you see it referenced in life!

    Marjorie, you said, "Tripp didn't seem to go out of his way to please Mary June. He expected her to do what he wanted. " Sometimes THAT very thing is attractive to young girls, they don't know enough to realize what it implies! Self centeredness!

    Hats, hahaha on ber John Jones. Every girl in school loved him. He was sooo cute. Don't you wonder what happened to him? It's amazing the things we thought were "cool."

    That was so beautiful about your own husband, you really REALLY should write!

    Do you all remember the FONZ from Happy Days? All he had to do was snap a finger, and let's face it, he was a hood? A heart of gold, but a hood?

    I loved ANNA'S story about how she found out what happened to her Rock Hudson!

    Anna mae, what a touching loving story of your husband's death, thank you for sharing that, that was beautiful!

    Sue thank you and thank you Mary Alice for those definitions of Moses basket, the minute you said that I realized I have one! Yes my cousin carried all her 5 babies in it and it was huge, and had handles and she gave it to me, I wonder what I did with it!

    OH tell me I did not give it away, it was HUGE!! I must go up to the barn and see if I still have it, if so I'll take a photo of it. I never knew what it WAS!

    Denjer, you asked, "Haven't we all wondered at times how things would be different if we'd made a different decision and taken a different path somewhere along the way, " yes I sure do!! And something like this really makes you think about it! Makes you want to find out what happened to Mr. XXX.

    I was thinking this morning about the structure of this book. First of all we're in the HERE and NOW, then we are plunged back to the BEGINNING and we get flash backs to what made the characters the way they are, but not ALL the information, that's to come. I kind of like that technique.

    Ella, sharp eyes, good point about the parallels continuing, with the weather: "Just as the weather outside is changing - so, too, does the atmosphere of the house, with Preston "a mere silhouette of the man she once knew," the house becoming more of a nursing home, the dog remaining in the house for Preston's sake and Nan and Morgan both discussing old times and the way it used it be."

    Good point! What other parallels can we see changing in this section?

    Great section on what you thought was especially good writing, I liked this one, too:

    Page 176: she reached over to pull back the gingham curtain and peer out the window. Pale yellow-and-pink light flooded the marsh as dawn rose over the east. In these precious minutes before the sun shone high and bright, the air felt fresh and cool against her cheeks. Purple martins were dipping ans diving across a brilliant azure sky in a glorious dawn dance…

    I thought what Mary Alice said about Mama June was important and want to put it in the heading too because in her books all the characters, each one, has a plot line of his own, a character arc as you can see in the heading.

    In Sweetgrass, Mama June had to journey through the past--the good and the bad--to reach truth. She was lost in the fog of a hazy past because of false memories or deliberately discarded/avoided ones. After all, she followed her mother's advice of, "don't think of that now." I think many people do this from time to time. In her case, the tragedies of Tripp's and her son's deaths were overwhelming. I sympathize with that kind of loss.

    She was lost in a fog, that's about how I thought of her in the first part, that's good stuff! Thank you Mary Alice, we can see how the author determines how we feel about the characters!

    Marjorie, How did they connect then? What was it that held their friendship together? Good question, I don't know!

    But I do know when Adele told her she was not "right for" Tripp.

    Now there's something to say to a "friend." What did Adele mean, do any of you know?

    That's on page 192, " It's not right. You're not right for Tripp. "

    What would YOU have said to Adele? I have a feeling the friendship ended there, it would have with me. What on earth did she mean?

    Too low class? Or?

    We can see Mary June says, oh I'm not good enough!

    Sounds to me like Tripp wasn't good enough for anybody hahaaha Note that Nona was not fooled, wasn't she the one who said everybody seems to be making excuses for him?

    In that she's one constant of wisdom that none of the others seem to have?

    "I married a man like my father. Did Nan do the same thing?"

    That's a good question, what do the rest of you think? Did Nan marry a man like her own father, is Hank (who strangely enough feels isolated too) like Preston?

    I can't get a handle on Nan, what's your opinion of her?

    Anna, wonderful point about how the characters seem to be real here and live, that's good writing, too!

    All right now, let's put up a few more focus points in our heading here and see what you think about them?

    I'll just put one here:

  • Growing up, her daddy had been her hero.

    When she married and becamse a Leland, howeer, her daddy had let go of her hand. She'd been grasping for it ever since. (Page 186).

    That's pretty powerful stuff. I like the way some truths are laid down sort of nonchalantly in this text.

    Here's another one, page 209, "Yet behind the façade of softening flesh she could still see the girl she'd always been staring back at her, all knowing."

    Don't you love that? I want to say the facades of these characters, all of them, get in the way of who they really are, as if they are bursting to be set free.

    Morgan, Mama June, Nan, Adele, you can sense Adele about to pop, she's like a steam iron, hissing and steaming. But we don't know why.

    What happened, the reader asks himself at this point, to drive Morgan away?

    And what happened to the baby?

    In a couple of days we'll enjoy discussing those very things and MUCH more!!! I wish I could graph the characters as they are moving thru this novel. For some reason I keep thinking of that mountain climbing game Bob Barker has on television. When I deliver Mobile Meals everybody is always watching Bob Barker, and that mountain climber who yodels? I wish somehow I could put these characters on that mountain in relation to not only where they are as far as revealed to us behind the outward façade, but also where they are in relation to the others.

    But who would you put on top? Which character is the most fully developed at this point, or that you understand the most?

    Which one do you relate to the most?

    Here's another of those little thrown away truths:

    Page 160, "I wish I knew why everyone likes to compare me to someone. Always did so."

    Why DO people do that, in your opinion? Have you ever been compared to anybody?

    "Nan thinks Adele and Hank are cooking up some development plan using Sweegrass as its cornerstone." (page 157)

    Now there's a reason to sell, but what would it profit Adele?

    And also did you notice Morgan dislikes Adele, too? On page 121? He had a lifelong dislike of Adele? Isn't that interesting, wonder who he got THAT from or what caused that one?

    And then here's another theme, on page 157.

    Mama June says it's over, they're the end of the line but it's Nona, again, who provides some stability:

    I do know we can't just give up on it. We're passing on tradition. Both of us. There's too much a stake for the future generations to just let it all go. There has to be a way to pass it down somehow. To keep the land safe, the sweetgrass safe. 'Cause once it's gone, it's gone forever.

    That's a great series of lines and they apply to not only Sweetgrass and the baskets, and ecology, but also I think you can apply it to Mama June's own life, that was very touching, she and the letters in the attic.

    Do you have any old letters? Have you kept them? What did they show you about the writer OR you?

    And here's one final line I really like:

    How ironic, she thought, to store the past but never tend to it." (page 201).

    What does that mean? How could you "tend" the past?

    (hahah I did have to laugh at the opening little lines for Chapter 8. "The construction of the Cooper River Bridge…" )

    When we went to the Isle of Palms this past January and went across to the SC Aquarium we were one wild eyed bunch assembling in that parking lot! I have NEVER seen anything like that horror of a bridge, and hope I never do again, never. Just when you think you're going to die of a heart attack but it's over, like a roller coaster it starts all over again! Everybody was wide eyed and slightly out of breath! Hahahaha

    Golly this is MUCH too long, hard to stop, what do you think about any or all of these things or anything else you've noticed? Which character seems to be changing the most?

    A blade of sweetgrass for your thoughts!
  • SpringCreekFarm
    October 13, 2005 - 11:45 am
    Ginny, re your: But I do know when Adele told her she was not "right for" Tripp.

    Now there's something to say to a "friend." What did Adele mean, do any of you know?

    That's on page 192, " It's not right. You're not right for Tripp. "

    I think Adele was jealous of Mary June's relationship with Tripp. Adele adored her older brother and wanted his attention for herself--plus I think in the relationship between Adele and Mary June, Adele needed to have the "star" position, first and best in everything. Mary June was to be the moon to her star. When Mary June fell for Tripp, Adele was no longer the most important in M.J. or Tripp's lives. Then Adele let this fester into adulthood, blaming M.J. for Tripp's death and for "ruining both Preston and Tripp's lives". Sue

    October 14, 2005 - 01:25 pm
    I think maybe Adele was a little jealous of Mary June's relationship with Tripp, but I also think she spoke the truth as she saw it. Sometimes we tell someone the truth as a way to justify our feelings.

    October 14, 2005 - 01:56 pm
    It's very hard to understand Adele's feelings. Her bitterness is so deep. I feel she has lost the means to express her pain. When Mary June begins paying attention to one brother, Preston, then moves her attention to the other brother, Tripp, does Adele begin to see her friend, Mary June, as flighty?

    Is Adele truly afraid Mary June might end up hurting one of her brothers? Seeing Mary June in a love relationship with a brother would change the relationship between the girls. Now this girl wants to become a part of the family, and it seems she can't choose which brother she wants as her one and only.

    October 15, 2005 - 09:26 pm
    I feel a certain sadness for Adele. Here her friend has two beaus and they are both her brothers I think she cared for both of them and loved both and was afraid Mary June was going to hurt both of them. And in one sense she did.

    And do I undersatnd Mary June? I have thought about that, My first real beau was a year younger than me and was such a wonderful young man. Marriage was out of the question since I was just graduating from High School and he had a year to go, but he was a dear person. We sort of drifted apart but remained friends and his sister and I were friends as well so I was still sort of part of the family (although I disliked the father but loved the mother who had been orphaned as a child ) and when I was at their home one day with the daughter I met his older brother who turned out to be my "ROCK HUDSON" now I relate to Mary June because at the time I came of dating age 16 we were in the middle of WWII and young women did not as a rule go steady, Most of my friends were like me dating a lot of young men . which helps you find the right one to marry . Funny but the young women who went steady were thought of as wild. Boy have times changed And no ,absoutely no young man would even think of suggesting an intimate relationship. And if they did WOW they would be giving thier walking papers.

    I did date the brother as I have said , the sister was delighted because she hoped I would be her sister in law. But as I have mentioned the older brother was not the kind of man I knew I wanted to marry if I were going to marry. All of these characters remind me of people I have known. which is why they seem so real to me.

    I see a certain bitterness in Adele and can understand it. She did not inherit the house, she lost one brother that Mary Jane had dated and her other brother married the same girl and I think she felt her friend had not behaved well, She harbored that resentment and it made her a bitter person. What makes the characters so real to me is they are like real people, flawed and human> They are not cartoon characters, nor do they posess super powers. They are just like most of the people who we meet and know. Reading books has been my passion since I was young . Lots of them have memorable characters , but many are in situations most of us have never faced. Here are characters that could be us and they behave not as heroes but as real people would behave. To me that makes a great book. anna OOPS I forgot to say "Rock Hudson" had just got out of the NAVY from WWII

    October 16, 2005 - 05:23 am
    Well a bright good fall morning to all of you! I was so blown away by Chapter 12, I'd like for us to look at IT for a couple of days anyway, there are a billion ideas floating in it and I sure would like your opinions on them, you are all so astute!

    Oh good point, Sue, that Adele was no longer the star, and we have to remember we're talking about college kids, who would be more affected by something like that than we would (or so we hope?!?) Good point.

    Denjer, so you see Jealousy, too. That Green Eyed Monster, what causes it, it sure causes more problems in the world than not. If Adele had felt secure in herself, would it have bothered her quite so much? We are not seeing a lot about her own parents, they seem, as in a true representation of what kids think, on the periphery, don't they? We don't know much, if anything about them.

    Oh good points, Hats, which brother indeed, Adele may be afraid of a lot of things here, and wonderful point on how DEEP this goes, this chapter 12 is full of roots, I expect every family has roots of pain, what makes ONE family overcome them and one not, I wonder?

    My goodness Anna, with your own story and the older brother and the sister as your friend, you have practically lived some of this story! Doesn't it seem REAL tho?

    Now when we left Mary June she was pregnant and had heard nothing from Tripp back.

    Talk about your cliff hangers! And today let's look at Chapter 12 and some of the many swirling images and themes and things brought up in IT alone! Then when we're thru we can move on, Chapter 12 to me seems very important!

    October 16, 2005 - 05:25 am
    Let's just take a hard look at some of the many things in Chapter 12 this morning for a second, I'll start with a few and you chime in any time with your reactions or those YOU saw! Pat will put our previous week's questions on an HTML page linked to the heading and she's also collecting everything Mary Alice has added to this discussion to add to our original interview, thank you Pat and Mary Alice!

    This Chapter 12 is really important to me, as more and more of the curtain draws back we can see more and more of the characters, the technique is fascinating. Chapter 12 contains a LOT of underlying currents. Note how it starts: Nona, the pillar of common sense (she is almost a narrator herself) is ironing the family damask linen table cloth, which itself has seen many a secret revealed. I like that image.

    Ironing, do any of you iron any more? I like the smell of it, myself, but don't do it, at all. I remember when people ironed sheets and underwear, do you?

    My grandmother did.

    So here we have symbolism in that the cloth itself is a metaphor: "So many stains she'd cleaned up over the years, each with a story of its own, and not a one could be seen." (Page 211).

    What else can't be seen? "There was a lot going on under the surface in this family." (page 213).

    What other things in this chapter are metaphors? And what do they stand for?

    "I've done with that….it's taken me years to accept that we just don't get along, okay?" (page 215). Morgan is unable to connect with his father in a meaningful way despite the urgings of Nona and Kristina. Why do you suppose that is? What is hampering this relationship, who is the main blame?

    Morgan says he has nothing to say to him, why does this remind me of a Jim Croce song? What does it remind you of??

    "This used to be an open field full of sweetgrass. Now look around. There's not a blade of sweetgrass on the lot. But I noticed that didn't stop them from calling it Sweetgrass Center." (page 218).

    Remember this song? They've Paved Paradise and Put Up a Parking Lot: Big Yellow Taxi

    They paved paradise and put up a parkin' lot
    With a pink hotel, a boutique, and a swingin' hot spot
    Don't it always seem to go
    That you don't know what you got till it's gone
    They paved paradise and put up a parkin' lot

    They took all the trees, and put em in a tree museum
    And they charged the people a dollar and a half to see them
    No, no, no, don't it always seem to go
    That you don't know what you've got till it's gone
    They paved paradise, and put up a parkin' lot

    Hey farmer, farmer, put away your DDT
    I don't care about spots on my apples,
    Leave me the birds and the bees – please
    Don't it always seem to go
    That you don't know what you got till it's gone
    They paved paradise and put up a parking lot
    Hey now, they've paved paradise to put up a parking lot
    Why not?

    There's quite a controversy now about any new Wal-Mart which goes up. What's going on? There's even a documentary called What Wal-Mart Has Done To America.

    What is your own opinion on progress such as we see mentioned here on page 218? Is it necessary? Is it wise? We have a brand new pretty shopping center CALLED Sweetgrass Center, but the sweetgrass itself is gone. Do you know of a similar instance in your own neighborhood? What have the Super Centers done to your own area? Have they been an improvement?

    And more more more….

    October 16, 2005 - 06:39 am
    Good morning!

    It is a lovely fall morning. Just recently we dealt with the building of a new and another Wal-Mart in our area. Some local environmentalists protested against the building of the Wal-Mart in this particular area. The environmentalists wanted to save the nearby wetlands. In the end, the Wal-Mart began their building. Now there is one more Wal-Mart in the area. This Wal-Mart is very close to another Wal-Mart.

    I love the Wal-Marts. However Wal-Marts are huge and Wal-Marts are everywhere. If it came to building another Wal-Mart or saving wildflowers, a place for ducks and beautiful trees, I would go for saving the environment. It is the one free beauty that we can give to our children. The environment is free and it also offers so many benefits. There are enough paved paradises.

    October 16, 2005 - 07:54 am
    Well if these are paradise then give me another place to go.I cannot believe that City Councils are so short sighted to keep approving malls and etc ..34 years ago when we moved here we were in the country. Of course I never expected it to stay that way but also never expected whole forests ripped up for strip malls. And NOT ONE tree left to make the parking lot attractive.

    A new Wal-Mart here was defeated when they wanted to build ANOTHER in a lovely green space.. So many people protested the City Council was about ready to vote against when Wal-MArt withdrew their plans. Maybe the words in What Wal-Mart has done to America made them pause at least for awhile.

    However we have a real controversary on building on a beach area ..Three women became so upset about the prospect of acres of wetlands being made into Condos and luxury homes they bravely took on the city council and gathered thousands of names on a petition ..and at least for the time being have succeeded in stopping the destruction of this land that now is public land and used by the public ,...

    And YEs Ginny I do relate to this story but that is the beauty of this book,From the beginning I have said I can see in my family and my life so much of what Sweetgrass is about. This fiction at its best! anna

    October 16, 2005 - 12:13 pm
    Depression is the label now put on what was happenining to Mary June when she "retreated from the world". Depression is a tough thing to deal with because we are not always sure what causes it, but the roots of depression go deep, much deeper than what appears to be causing the depression in the first place, such as the death of her son. Depression is caused by a failure to deal with the real problem.

    They've Paved Paradise and Put up a Parking Lot Wal-mart is only the symbol of what is going on. Just north of us a little ways Perrier put up an Ice Mountain water bottling plant. Of course the water is being drawn from underground wells. Michigan has the largest supply of fresh water in the world and everyone thinks it is endless. There is a dispute going on as to whether they should be allowed to ship all this (40,000 gallons a day) out of the Great Lakes Basin or not. At one time people thought the lumber supply in Michigan was endless too and it only took fifty years to cut down nearly all the white pine in the state.

    October 16, 2005 - 01:47 pm
    It was K-Mart that distroyed a beautiful forest a few years ago (maybe 30 or 40 years ago) it now sits abandon with the cement building and blacktop deteriorating it breaks my heart to see what human beings are doing for money (greed) to what was nature at its best. We also had a mall that did the same thing down by the river empty and deteriorating.

    So they call there mall Sweetgrass but who in a few years will remember what sweetgrass was and how some made there living weaving?

    October 16, 2005 - 01:52 pm
    You are so right about what they have done to the Michigan forests and want to do with our water "lake Michigan".

    October 16, 2005 - 08:46 pm
    I live in a city so there isn't a lot of "nature" to be paved over. However, a couple of places changed from their previous state to one I think is worse. There was a Sears in the middle of a large parking lot. The Sears closed and the lot was empty for a few years. Now there is a McDonalds, a Safeway, and an apartment building which, I hope, has enough parking. Then on the next street another building with parking lot was removed and condos were put in. For me what happened is that there are many, many more people in the area now. That means more cars and more of a drain on services.

    There was one empty lot that was taken over by condos. The lot was an eyesore but the homeless used to sleep under the bushes. It is all paved over now and I don't know how many people live in those condos in the same space.

    I expect the place that Sears was was pretty at one time but that was before I moved here (in 1969).

    October 17, 2005 - 04:57 am

    I'm sorry. I misread the song. They have paved paradise. So many trees, birds and other beauties of nature have been taken away. They have paved our "paradise." It's very sad. MAM's book, Sweetgrass, is a reminder of what is being lost to us. Our priorities are really out of order when we choose another Macdonalds over a park filled with trees and flowers and the sounds of nature.

    October 17, 2005 - 05:02 am
    RIGHT ON couldnt agree with you more. ,anna

    October 17, 2005 - 09:34 am
    Since we started this discussion I have been thinking about the giant oak trees that used to be on highway 29, they were so magnificent that the gas station there built around them and called itself Twin Oaks. They were near a memorial to WWII or WWI, there was some sort of camp there, and stone marker and then came Mc Donald's. Now don't get me wrong, I was a stockholder in McDonald's, but the oaks are gone the highway was widened, and the McDonald's is gone too, now, the marker is gone and now there's nothing left but a bunch of fast food stores and a bank. You'd never know anything historic was ever there, much less a set of giant trees. Sometimes I wonder about the "tree huggers," I'm turning into one myself in my old age.

    So it used to be when you'd look there you saw history and magnificent trees, now you see something anybody could have anywhere, at what cost? Do we really NEED another fast food take away?

    It seems like any time you do anything you have people on both sides, and good arguments on both sides, but the ultimate result is what was living is no more, and we all suffer.

    Anna, how courageous of those women to stop that construction!! It just shows you what volunteers can do to change things, one volunteer or one step at a time, that's one thing I enjoy about what we're doing here on SeniorNet, all of it, we've made history here and done good in the world, 4,000 books donated to SC and CT prisons alone, real good in the real world. It matters.

    Hats and Marjorie and Anna, I agree with you and Ginger, so right, and as you say the McDonalds are gone now but the damage to the environment is permanent. This is nothing new!!

    Denjer, I had not thought of that about depression, I've always heard depression is "repressed anger," do you think that's true?

    I hate to move on to other chapters!! hahaha What do you think about #3 in the heading here? Communication between generations, why do you suppose Morgan and his father are having such a time? Who is to blame at this point? Did you catch Nona saying when Morgan asked her what he had been like when he was young, or she thought, "you're just like him!"

    What do you think is going on here, and why? What is causing the problems between them in talking about what matters?

    I also thought the part about somebody telling Morgan that he couldn't wait to get out of the sickroom very telling. Have you ever had the experience in a hospital or otherwise where you were the patient and you had a nurse or whoever who couldn't wait to get out of the room? I have, it's quite noticeable to the patient, isn't it?

    Mary Alice Monroe
    October 18, 2005 - 09:12 am
    The Charleston Post and Courier is doing a series of articles on our beautiful Marian National Forest. I did not realize that hundreds of these acres were privately owned. They are now in danger of being sold to developers, which would mean houses springing up inside the forest. This could seriously disrupt the habitat of many wild species. How sad. While I was on book tour this summer I drove through the beautiful farmlands of the midwest. So many farms bordered developments and one knew just by looking that it was merely a matter of time before that farmland became housing development, too. Am I the only one who wonders what we all will be eating in the future?

    October 18, 2005 - 09:26 am
    NO I wonder as well We had acres of farm land here when we moved here and now it is all commercial I understand the heirs wanting to sell and turn the family farm into money but it saddens me. The last little bit of farmland nearby is now becoming a shopping center. In the space of only 3-4 miles we have HUGE shopping centers and over the years companies come and go While the population is growing they still cant support all of these shopping centers One center is now being considered for a "new" type of area, The developers will take down all of the present buildings and erect apartments with small shops on the ground floor. That is the newest thing here A lot like old time neighborhoods where the homes and apartments are mixed in wiht businesses . and small parks I "think" that may be an improvement but still where will the food come from???And the further the food supply is from a community the more costly it will be . I am glad I have a 1/3 of an acre and can do what I used to do HAVE A SMALL GARDEN..

    I have to say I cant recall enjoying a book in a long time as much as I am enjoying Sweetgrass! anna

    October 18, 2005 - 11:21 pm
    Yep, sweetgrass is my kinda book also, as today I had road apples (better known as horse manunre to some) put on my lawns so if some one younger will use the rotertiller that I have used in the past We shall eat well here, if not nessary my lawns will look "great" I hope. Many city people and the young do not know what is happening to the enviorment and it hurts my heart as for me I do know to start seeds on the sun porch and go on from there along with clipings from a rose, grape or any such thing, yes I am a farmer and proud of it.

    October 19, 2005 - 04:34 am
    OK let's move on to Chatper 13, I really hate to but we must, and Mama June's "fog." Have you ever experienced that feeling? Everybody and everything else is moving along but you are caught in your own "fog?" I really liked how Mary Alice Monroe here used nature AS metaphor with the character, they seem to be blending here, did you notice that? Love it.

    I agree Anna that this is a super book, am enjoying it no end.

    Ginger, so true, everybody needs a little nature in their lives, something that grows and is not made out of plastic!

    Mary Alice, an excellent point! We'll all be eating plastic food in plastic wrap from the freezer, synthetic brownies and chemical candy bars.

    Anna, I agree again on the development thing, here locally on the news this morning is the shocking news that developers rebel about putting trees in their landscapes! Yes! They are saying it's going to add $10,000 to the cost of a home, can you imagine? Just like the song says, they took all the trees and put them in a museum and charge the public a dollar and a half to see them.

    They are now trying to pass a law here that you have to have one tree for every so many parking spaces, jeepers.

    Now some people have said this is a sad book. Would you agree? When we get to the end which unfortunately is coming next week, we'll ask you to say what you think the overall tone of the book is? Here we have a great sadness rooted in the family, the loss of Hamlin.

    Now Mama June asks Preston (himself suffering from a stroke) , when his brow furrows when she has brought up Morgan and Hamlin:

    That's a good thing, isn't it? Going over things we've done or said in our mind, trying to get things straight.
    Now let's ask you, if you have a painful memory, do you personally feel going over it helps or hurts?

    Like a tongue with a sore tooth, does going over it help? I really would like to hear your thoughts on this?

    Then she says she has found the letters, opens herself up here, the man has had a stroke, what can he say? OH MY GOSH what is she about to SAY?

    Oh now we find out how and why Tripp died. A massive fight. Guilt for Preston. Guilt for Mary June. (Telegram sent to Adele? No phone call? She had to call home?) That right there shows you something of Preston's own family??!!??

    At any rate she brings this up to the man I expect who…or was it she who….inadvertently caused Tripp's death? Or did Tripp cause his own death? Who is to blame here?

    And here's another nature image, Preston says Tripp was like the tides, they fought over the baby and whether or not he'd do the manly thing and marry her?

    Ah and Tripp offers Kerouac: "I have nothing to offer you but my own confusion."

    What's your opinion of Tripp at this point? Who do you blame for his death?

    "For years hers had been a stale, tired marriage, one filled with disillusionment and disappointments."…what is your opinion of the paragraph beginning in page 246 of Preston and Mary June's marriage? What do you think has caused this? And how has the stroke changed their relationship?

    I loved that about the bone in the little pre chapter heading, didn't you?

    Penny for your thoughts on the events and symbolism in Chapter 13~!

    October 19, 2005 - 05:34 am
    Painful memories are like horrible toothaches. The pain won't disappear until you go and see a dentist. For a long time I avoided looking at anything which would cause me emotional pain. Finally, I realized my pain was like awful scum or like the stains in the damask table cloth Nona ironed. I could try and walk around ignoring the pain, but the pain wasn't disappearing or lessening. Ignoring my pain only caused my injury to become more inflamed. On top of that each week or new year dealt me another sock in the gut. Before I realized it my molehill of pain had grown to be a mountain.

    Even today I am not perfect at looking at what has hurt me. I run and cry first. I try again and again to hide my head under a pillow. At least now I come out from under the pillow much quicker.If I don't act quickly, I won't have a tropical storm on my hands, I will have a hurricane.

    I think this is what Mama June discovered. This is what caused her "fog." She was walking under a cloud, a cloud that enclosed her like a bubble. She needed to talk, to explain, to confess. Mama June almost lost her chance. Preston's stroke and Morgan's coming home seemed like the "grace points" which Ella discussed.

    Talking and looking at what causes me discomfort will in the long run bring comfort and peace of mind to my family and to me. I tell this to my boys daily. I want them to share their flaws with their wives and children. I want them to tell me my mistakes as a parent and tell their dad too. In other words I want all of my family to become stronger than the catastrophes or hurricanes that will and have come our way. Maybe the winds won't blow us completely away and we will still have and love each other.

    October 19, 2005 - 06:47 am
    Well said, HATS. I was in five different foster homes as a child and was married at a young age. As a child I always assumed that it was my fault when I was transferred to another strange home. It wasn't until years later that I realized that this was done deliberatly to keep foster kids from becomming too attached to families that weren't really theirs. (how sad) For the first few years of my marriage I tried to be the perfect wife and mother so my husband wouldn't abandon me. It took me ten years and four kids into the marriage before I started to realize that there is no such thing as a perfect person and that real love involves mixing in all the flaws and blemishes. Both of us stuck with it and after 43 years now are much closer to the ideal relationship which is not at all like I thought it would be when we started out.

    I still have a lot of empathy for Adele but don't agree with the way she handled things. She wound up alienating herself even further from the family. I wonder, was it worth it?

    We will be out-of-town for a week visiting relatives in Wisconsin. I have returned the book to the library after finishing it as it falls due this week. Might have access to a computer from time to time and will check back when I can. This is one of the best books I have read and I recommended it to the book discussion group at our local library.

    October 19, 2005 - 06:58 am

    After my post, I continue to think of the Blakelys. This family lives in your thoughts daily. Funny, I thought of the word perfectionism this morning. I didn't think of it until after writing my post. I suppose straining after perfectionism is what causes us to hide from truths and not see clearly. My sister who was twenty-one years older than me always pointed out my imperfections. It took me a long time to realize perfectionism is only a pipe dream. She had me running after something unachievable.

    I don't have my book anymore either, Denjer. I have certainly gleaned so much from "Sweetgrass" and MAM's wonderful and insightful answers in the interview and discussion. These two months have been so great and our Ginny made it all come about.

    Denjer, have a wonderful trip!

    Mary Alice Monroe
    October 19, 2005 - 11:40 am
    Have a wonderful visit in Wisconsin, Denjer! I just returned from Milwaukee for a wedding. A beautiful place.

    I was moved by many of Denjer's and Hat's comments about openness and honesty in families. I come from a large family and have learned that if there is a big issue that everyone is aware of--perhaps not supposed to know about--yet no one openly acknowledges, it is like having a big elephant in the middle of the room that everyone pretends they don't see. The psyche always knows.

    In the Blakely family, there was a failure of communication. Secrets divide families. That is one of the reasons I had Preston become mute. His forced silence was not only symbolic, but it forced communication. Not just verbal, but communication with other senses as well. The touching between Mama June and Preston was critical to their reconnect ion.

    My father was a pediatrician and he always told young mothers to touch their babies, to massage their backs, etc. Lack of touch in premature babies causes failure to thrive. Why would that change as we get older? Don't we all sometimes just need a good hug?

    Only when the Blakely family began talking and sharing and revealing their soft underbellies did they break down the walls and connect again.

    They did communicate once. Before Ham died. I wanted to show how the family was happy, once. The adventures on The Project, the dinnertime chats, the laughing... Mama June shut down after Ham's death, as often happens to a mother after the death of a child. Rather than get therapy, she held her pain in, locked it away, as she locked away the letters. I read just today a bit about Pandora's Box. She opened the box and released all the pain, sadness, illness, etc. then closed the lid again. She heard one more, small voice in the box crying for release. This was the voice of hope, and she released it, too. I thought this was apropos for our discussion of Morgan opening up the box with the letters. Yes, he shouldn't have done so. Yet, despite the pain, sorrow and fury that was released in the aftermath, hope, too, was released.

    October 19, 2005 - 08:16 pm
    MARY ALICE: You succeeded in getting the Blakleys to communicate in many ways. I liked how hard Preston tried to let Mary June know that he could still communicate with her. Mary June had to allow herself a new role in order to use touch to communicate with Preston. She had never been the first to touch before. A couple of years ago I spent 3 weeks in rehab after breaking my leg. I got wonderful care but once I got home I realized that touch is what was missing. I didn't have many visitors and none of the personnel in the facility were touchers (maybe by design so that they couldn't be charged with something). When the touch was missing, I didn't realize it. I only realized it when touch came back into my life.

    Joan Grimes
    October 20, 2005 - 08:56 am
    I have finally caught up with you on the reading. I have really enjoyed reading this book. It has held my concentration which is really something considering that I have not been able to finish a book since my husband Theron died. I am so glad that I decided to go ahead and try to read this book although I could not get it in big print or on cd yet.

    I will write more later but must go now.

    Joan Grimes

    October 20, 2005 - 12:05 pm
    Welcome back, Joan! We are so glad you are caught up and raring to go.

    Mary Alice, I thought what you said was beautiful, your writing is breathtaking, even in a post in here, I'm beginning to see the difference in writing and "WRITING!"

    I loved that about Pandora's box and this blew me away (when the characters are SO real and so realistically portrayed you forget they ARE created, "In the Blakely family, there was a failure of communication. Secrets divide families. That is one of the reasons I had Preston become mute. His forced silence was not only symbolic, but it forced communication…"

    Oh thank you for that! It's really hard in reading this book to keep reminding yourself these are only characters on a printed page: it's hard to keep a distance from them which you need, to DO literary criticism of some kind, hard with this book.

    Marjorie, that's a good thing for all of us to remember, I'm glad Mary Alice brought that up and you have reinforced it, thank you.

    I was thinking yesterday and I know we have to move on but I'm stuck on so many things in Chapter 12 and 13.

    For instance (and I promise we'll move on thru 17 after this post) but did you all catch this:

    For years hers had been a stale, tired marriage, one filled with disillusionment and disappointments. Her and Preston's conversations were perfunctory. They didn't share interests, nor did they even try any longer. They'd fallen into a routine of isolation. He often preferred to be alone than with her. He went for walks with is dog or spent time in his office with the door closed. This did not distress her, as she felt the same.

    Now we know from Mary Alice that Mary June here has withdrawn emotionally but this is a fairly common thing among long marriages, isn't it? Regardless of the death of a child. I guess I want to ask you if you know anybody like this and I guess I want to ask, I want to even go out on a limb and ask if this type of marriage is typical of the older generation?

    A young person would say well why did they stay together? What would you answer to that?

    How would you talk about the new findings that show that people SHOULD have diverse interests that they can pursue apart from shared interests in the marriage?

    We can see Mary Alice has laid some of the blame of this failed marriage on the death of Hamlin, do you think that's all that it was? (I mean, realistically SHE should know hahaha but again the characters are SO true to life!) Are there marriages like this where there has not been the death of a child?

    Would you say these marriages are more common than not? Let's hear from you on this state of Mary June's marriage today, if you like, I find this part fascinating, and so well written.

    October 20, 2005 - 12:09 pm
    I'm going to say something else, too, and that's somewhat off the topic but I LOVE the paper this book is writtn on, I love the way it's presented. The paper is kind of rough, it almost seems natural, itself, and I did look but did not see where it was from recycled paper but it looks like it, I like the symmetry of the paper and the way it looks to the topic of the book: the cover is beautiful, and the paper and content and themes are beautiful on the inside, I like that.

    I have another question on the appearance of the book but I want to reread our Interview in the heading and make sure she has not already answered it and then we SHALL move on to Chapers 14-17~~

    October 20, 2005 - 12:54 pm
    In Chapter 14 we get into Conservation Easements, did you all know there are a lot of different ones? There are some that actually pay an income if I understood the last one presented to me, or the equivalent of one in some manner, it was very interesting, but there are SEVERAL kinds to choose from, very glossy brochures. But it seems that they can't do that, even.

    I loved the description of the restaurant and thought that was particularly well done, IS there a Vickery's? That sounds familiar but I'm thinking we did not go there or is that the one on the…water sort of with the super breakfast buffet on Sunday?? I can't remember!!

    "I can say with assurance that they do not have a copy of my partnership agreement with Preston. "

    Bombshell! Now we know why Adele wants the land sold, are you surprised that she is so nasty and cunning? Going thru all those papers with her own agenda?

    And that Hank is in cohoots with her?

    Kind of runis your faith in humanity doesn't it?

    Did you notice sort of a shift in narrative voice when Nan is the one talking? I liked that, it helped switch characters, I noticed it particularly on page 266, expressions that I don't think Mary June would have used.

    "Sometimes women don't make the best decisions." (page 268). What is Hank using this philosophy as? What would you have said to him?

    Chapter 15 ( I hate to end this! Hahahah I enjoy taking it out and musing on the different points as I reread them, and every time I do reread them I see something different!) But in 15 we see revealed something we have long known about as not so much a facade as something hinted at behind the bitterness: the roots of Adele's anger. I was really surprised at her asking Hank if his children would care enough to sit at dinner with him should HE have had a stroke (page 283), (who would sit with her?) and Mama June's reflection that…."in the twilight of her life, she'd come to realize that the people who truly mattered were the precious few who had stood by her through the worse times and the best." (page 281)

    A book like this really makes you rethink your own priorities, doesn't it? Do you agree with her those are the only people who matter or who should matter in life? But what of all the others?

    In Chapter 15, we have reached a climactic moment in the action, the threat, coming from Adele of all people who has supposedly lent Preston $500,000 dollars and the problem IS as Mary Alice has told us, he's mute? He's had a stroke. Nobody wants to take it up with him and there are no papers, are you a bit surprised that Morgan has not asked to see the signed agreement?

    Do you all still think the turning point was Preston's phone call to Morgan?

    Love it!

    More on 16, I don't know why I keep talking about 17, we're not supposed to DO it till Monday!

    "I'll do whatever it takes to keep it going." (page 288). Have you ever felt that way about something? Is there something you are trying to keep going in some way?

    Contrasts in Chapter 15: the lighted house, the sounds of happiness, a meal and Adele on the outside, looking in with her cigarette, alone except for Hank. These chapters in this quarter of the book are full of contrasts.

    The part on page 298 kind of reinforces my thought that it's the stroke that's the pivotal point in the book because Nan explains how it has affected her own life. I still think it is.

    So Morgan doubts himself, Nan has doubts about herself, and sees a ghost! What did you all think about the ghost? We have a ghost here, do you believe in them or not, and when is it they seem to come? I must say ours doesn't leave anything behind, why do you think this one did? Isn't that unusual behavior for a ghost?

    "Of course I could, if I'd started earlier. But for me it's too late to change. The pattern is too fundamental in our marriage. " (page 300).

    Do you think this is true? Nan here is speaking about her own marriage but is there never any hope for change?
    At the end of Chapter 16, we've had all of the curtains drawn back but one. Each character, or do you think so, has been revealed to be something he was not other than his façade, can you think of one who has not yet been?

    Are all of these characters affected by the death of Hamlin, directly or indirectly?

    What one thing as we enter the last quarter of the book on Monday, what one thing would you most like to find out or talk about?

    October 20, 2005 - 01:23 pm
    "Now let's ask you, if you have a painful memory, do you personally feel going over it helps or hurts? Would this be a particularly good topic to bring up with a man who has suffered a stroke? Why or why not?"

    These questions point up personality differences. I had a great 44 year marriage, but there were some rough spots as there are in any marriage. My personality wanted to talk them over, even to argue--but my husband didn't want to. I know that I have a tendency to go on and on about a subject, but I hated marital silence. We had a good breakthrough, though, about 9 years ago when we had a new young pastor who wanted couples from our church to go to a Marriage Encounter in Atlanta. Bob and I were the only couple in our congregation besides John and wife Rhonda to attend. There was one evening where we were sent to our rooms to write about events that had disturbed us over the years. We both pledged each other to write honestly, then we shared our written thoughts. It was painful on both sides, but really cleared the air. This worked wonderfully for us. I just wish we'd been able to do this on our own and earlier.

    However, I am conflicted about Mary June's bringing it up with Preston after his stroke. I think I'd have been afraid it would cause another, more severe stroke. However, it seems as if Preston had been waiting for her to talk to him for many years and was actually healing for both of them. Sue

    October 20, 2005 - 02:06 pm
    That's such a good point, Sue! I would have worried, too, the idea of "protecting" him, and that idea actually is throughout, too, people seem to be trying to "protect" themselves and others from something, I just noticed that when you posted.

    I like that idea of writing down and I'm glad it worked, it's amazing in a long marriage what often goes unsaid, and why.

    I still don't think that having individual interests is bad tho, I have recently read it's healthier!

    Well look at it this way, also: if a man had had such a severe stroke, it would seem HOW you told him would make a difference? If you wanted to KILL him it would not be hard, I'm thinking.

    Notice Mary June asked Morgan to tell him and he said no, there's still some interference there in communication between father and son, I am wondering why.

    Super points, Sue!!

    October 20, 2005 - 04:54 pm
    Gosh I am missing an entire post here in answer to Hats and Denjer? I wonder what happened, are any of you missing one? I was struck by what Denjer said about her life as a foster child and how she tried to be perfect so her husband wouldn't send her away, and how their marriage had grown and then Hats post about, I thought that was beautiful, ". I want them to share their flaws with their wives and children. I want them to tell me my mistakes as a parent and tell their dad too. In other words I want all of my family to become stronger than the catastrophes or hurricanes that will and have come our way. "

    I was thinking this afternoon that SOME people in this family's shoes would probably really be thrown by this, or say when it rains it pours, I mean look at the challenges: tax notice that can't be paid, must lose homestead, Preston has stroke, his own sister turns on them and wants to sell the family home, Nan is going to leave Hank, Morgan has issues concerning Hamlin's death (as do they all) so he can't even go out to the Bluff, this whole family is reeling, in response as Hats says, to the storms of life. In a way it's a lesson in how to cope. Or how not to cope by falling apart.

    But I'm thinking that the dinner they had when Preston could come to the table after that very picturesque strawberry jam making, when Adele and Hank were symbolically and physically on the outside, looking on to the lit party, (that was so well done it's stuck in my mind as if it happened), marked a turning point in their solidarity toward each other, or so it seemed to me. But Morgan still can't tell their father...why? Because he's afraid that Preston's own duplicity revealed will kill him??

    If SO, then that's a good sign!

    If NOT, then it's a sign that they still can't communicate, which do you think it is?

    Subtle thing, that. I wouldn't have told him, myself, but how will he avoid finding out eventually??

    Anna, I was so struck by what you said here: "One center is now being considered for a "new" type of area, The developers will take down all of the present buildings and erect apartments with small shops on the ground floor. That is the newest thing here."

    Well it's a "new" concept morethan 2,000 years old, the Romans did it and Pompeii and Herculaneum are full of examples, nothing new under the sun, huh? hahaaha

    October 21, 2005 - 07:24 am
    There is so much to take away from Sweetgrass and use in my life. Oddly, Sweetgrass is a practical and useable book. I think Nona and Kristina helped the family bridge many communication gaps in the family. Without Kristina's presence, I don't know what would have happened.I remember Kristina almost training Mama June in the way she should care for Preston.

    The scenes with Preston are so moving. I remember Preston would blink his eyes. This made his desires known to the rest of the family. I will always remember the importance of touch and also the importance of talking. Maybe a loved one can't give back an oral response. That doesn't mean the person can't hear what we are saying. When our loved ones are sick, there isn't time to give up. We have to keep rolling with the punches.

    It's unknowable what word or words can touch the patient's heart and set the patient on the road to recovery. Preston was so well cared for and I think Kristina had a lot to do with getting the wheels of his recovery turning. Kristina also helped Morgan's emotional healing to begin too.

    MAM mentioned the importance of touch to premature babies. MAM, have you ever worked with or thought of writing a novel about a family with a premature infant?

    Joan Grimes
    October 21, 2005 - 11:20 am
    What a marvelous book this is. I am so glad that read it. I have finished it and have such a sense of accomplishment because I did finish it. I miss the book now that I have finished it. It really touched me.

    Joan Grimes

    Mary Alice Monroe
    October 22, 2005 - 07:46 am
    Hats, I come from a large family; many of us were premature. Interesting idea about writing about it. Hmmm...

    Yes, there IS a Vickery's restaurant. It is at Shem Creek.

    Your discussion of Long Marriages is fascinating. I'd thought when I wrote it that many readers would reflect on that. I do not think it is uncommon for long marriages to experience a period of, say, exhaustion. No more surprises, mundane comments, loss of shared interests, etc. The question is: what can we do to bring back the spontaneity? The spark? The freshness and romance? The friendship? One of the most important aspect of writing the novel for me was the exploration of this question through Mama June and Preston. This was, I feel, a great love story.

    The other critical point was to answer the question of how we deal with family members and personal needs/hurts/greed when a family property is sold. When threatened, a person's best and worst qualities are revealed. Some members rise up to meet the challenge. Others wallow in self interest. And still others make a statement by remaining mute. I think I am most disturbed by the latter. I've gleaned from your comments that some of you are facing just such questions. True?

    October 22, 2005 - 02:43 pm
    My library assured me they had ordered the book in September and i am first on the list, but i haven't gotten it yet. Will this discussion be archived, so i can read thru it again when i get the book? I loved Beach House and from reading your discussions, i'm sure i'm going to love Sweetgrass as well.......jean

    October 22, 2005 - 05:25 pm
    JEAN: Welcome. We will definitely be archiving this discussion. It will be available for you to read when you get the book.

    MARY ALICE MONROE: You mentioned three ways family members respond when a family property is sold: "rise up to meet the challenge;" "wallow in self-interest;" or "remain mute." You seem most concerned with those who remain mute. I wonder if it is possible that those who are mute could belong to sub-categories that might affect how they respond to the final decision. If someone knowingly allows others more knowledgable to make decisions, that would imply to me that the decision would be accepted whatever it is. If someone believes that they have no influence, they may remain mute but complain bitterly (perhaps in private) if the final result is not what they want. Then there is the person who is mute because they aren't willing to stand up to others. As I write all of this I wonder if I am not also describing people who are non-voters in our democracy?

    October 23, 2005 - 06:28 am

    I think being mute has tentacles like an octopus. Such a sad state not to take the chance to voice important concerns. Then, to go behind doors and whisper about what should change. The vote gives me a chance to speak without reprisals.

    Mary Alice Monroe also asked a question about marriage.

    I think all marriages do go through a time of boredom, been there, done that and said that. Maybe during this period in a marriage it is important for couples to find interests in common. My husband and I like books. When we are exhausted with trying to find answers to our adult boys problems, we laugh and talk about books.

    We also like to dream together. We talk about what we would like to do one day. It doesn't matter that those dreams might not come true. We just enjoy wandering in a virtual dreamland. Who knows?? We aren't dead yet. Some of those dreams might come true.

    It's also important to learn that it's alright not to go and do everything together. Every person needs space. That space allows me to get in touch with my individuality. I don't want to become a clone of someone else.

    October 23, 2005 - 07:20 am
    Gosh what powerful posts! I read one and go away and think and here's another one, I had a big thing to Mary Alice's post when I saw Marjorie's, and that little part about voting set me spinning off in another direction.

    And now Hats! Octopus, love that!! Love the part about dreams, too, I am the world's worst dreamer. That's so beautiful. I totally agree with you about the different interests and the clone thing, but people differ in their needs.

    For instance I like to travel, my husband does not. For years we did travel, if you could call it that, together. He hated it. He likes to be in control. You are not in control when you travel unless you spend a billion dollars and rent your own island. We also did two cruises, fancy ones, suites, QEII, he said never again. We live on a farm, which has taken a lot of our resources AND time and sacrifice but he is not retired yet. His idea of a vacation is getting on our tractor or a tractor in our farm in Georgia which adjoins his mother's place which HER people have held for generations, NOT banging thru Europe looking at Roman ruins or spending two weeks at Oxord in England. So I go alone or with other friends and thoroughly enjoy myself, I've been everywhere and am planning more, there's not enough time to walk the Egyptian Ruins, the Wall of China and still hit Rome and Pompeii every year, this year the Greek Islands, also, but that's ME, he's HE, I hope that does not mean something dire, for the marriage, we're approaching 40 years, tho it probably does, I can't imagine any other way. I feel very lucky. But that's ME. I think he should be allowed to be HE, too.

    On the subject of silence, or muteness, you can take it two ways.

    You can say well that person is simply overwhelmed, I must gently and tenderly help him or her to articulate, so we can communicate and solve this and be together.

    It can also be like Marjorie says, an issue of control.

    For instance Passive Aggressive people often go silent, if you say something or bring up something they don't want to deal with, they can and do turn and leave the room, refusing to engage, refusing to communicate.

    This CAN be a method of control, on both sides. If you urgently would like to discuss something that I do not, my silence robs you of that opportunity, and if I never say what I'm thinking it robs you of control. I'm in control, and you can do nothing about it. A bit different from voting, perhaps, but control is a major thing.

    You can't help and you can't control the situation because I am silent. So your motives may be pure or they may be issues of control, but I am in control because I am silent. It works.

    Thinking like this has made ME realize, what a grand topic, what a grand conversation on a grand book, that CONTROL is one of the issues in this book.

    Think about it? What character here is free of control issues?

  • Morgan? He had to move half the country away to get control of something, himself, anything?

  • Hank? He's totally in control, that's his problem.

  • Nan? She's never in control, she admits that, that's her problem.

  • Preston? He's BEEN in control or so everybody thought, now he's not, that's HIS big problem, isn't it?

  • Mary June? What of her? Is she in or out of control??

    What about the rest of them?
  • annafair
    October 23, 2005 - 09:55 am
    I can see this book has touched us all Funny when my husband died I thought of all the things I would miss but what surprised me the most and what I STILL miss the most was converstation,. TO us everything was catalyst to conversation . We talked all the time and it was not a one way conversation because THAT is not a conversation but a speech What we had that was so wonderful was real conversation and real communication AND Ginny I think you have found an answer My husband and I shared a lot of the same interests but we were each individuals > We each had interests the other did not but we encouraged each to be WHO THEY WERE ,.. and that is so rare and I will always feel blessed to have found that with a special human for nearly 44 years . There are many things I could share but one strikes me in particalar .. We had household help but the children in their teens did not want Martha doing their rooms. So we all took on responsibilities and mine was dusting. The mail man delivered a book I had ordered just as I had started to dust in the living room. I really was about finished but was ready to do the coffee table . I opened the package and then put it aside saying I will finish what I started. But ( and I talk to inanamite objects) I noticed the dust and said You know I have seen you before You were here last week and no matter how often I remove you You always return >> Do you know what I think ? when God was finished with creation He had all this dust left over and being male He just tossed it aside and it has annoyed every woman since Eve. We keep trying but we havent destoyed one atom ..and I have decided I am going to read my book and just let you lie there bit longer.

    Whem my husband came home he stood in the doorway to the living room the Pledge and dust cloth was on the coffee table and I was curled up with my book and he raised an eyebrow in question When I started to explain He said No it is YOUR day and You get to decide what YOu want to do .. that was said as most of the things he said to me over our marriage with a very understanding and loving voice We had true communication over the years so much so I always felt I could forgive him anything ( of course I never had to) but because he allowed me to be myself ..always..Of course one thing about talking to yourself when I would get angry at him it was usually when he was in some foreign country and away but I would talk to him like he was there and by the time he returned I had it all out of my system and had forgotten whatever it was. If I encouraged him in his dreams he did the same for me. While I have gone on with my life in many ways the hole he left in my heart will always be there.

    This book as I have said just touches me in so many ways and I did read to the end and have a hard time posting without mentioning that ..but I am glad that Preston and Mary Jane have reached that place in thier lives where they are really on the same page and it is never too late to do that .. I feel sorry for Adele and Hank because unlees they change they are going to die without Ever knowing what real love and caring means. And NAN is going to find out! The wonderful thing about this book is YOU REALLY CARE about the people in it .>They are not cardboard people but real people and that is a talent the author does so well . I will think of them long after I have put my book aside ..anna

    October 23, 2005 - 10:31 am
    Anna, I agree. Mary Alice Monroe's characters are not cardboard.

    I don't see Mary June as a person in control or ever being in control. In this instance, when I see the name "Mary June," I see a little girl being led by the hand. I can't see a woman. Did Mary June have some control of her love life? I don't think so. I think she loved Hamlin. Then, after an unexpected pregnancy, she allowed Preston to take the reins and give her baby a name as well as a home. Preston took control of her life at that point.

    After Preston's stroke, it took Morgan's strong personality to get the problems about the house in control. Morgan searched the attic, he wrestled with Preston's memory about lost papers, Morgan confronted Adele.

    Mary June didn't take control. This allowed others to easily take control and make decisions for her. Thank goodness, in the end, these decisions worked for her benefit. Mary June is a pleasant person, not one who takes control.

    October 24, 2005 - 08:37 pm
    Anna what wonderful stories you have, beautiful images, no wonder you write poetry!

    Hats, do you think that Mary June became in control at the end? Can you be nice and also in control? Her development is stunning, isn't it?

    I am wondering about wanting Preson to leave Sweetgrass, I am not sure what I think about that, what do the rest of you think??

    But.... Wow! A powerful ending, I myself, reading the part where Morgan and Hamlin went out in the boat, became afraid! Super writing, so atmospheric, did you notice how nature was reflecting whatever emotions were on in the characters?

    Lots going on here lots of threads tied up and things explained, do you understand all of them? Let's talk about the end.

  • 1. "When were you going to tell me?" (page 323). Morgan has read his mother's letters. Why is he so upset? Would she have eventually told him? Would you?

  • 2.
    Footfalls echo in the memory
    Down the passage which we did not take
    Towards the door we never opened.
    --T.S. Eliot

    In Chapter 19, Morgan returns to Bluff House.

  • How do the descriptions of the scenery and nature foreshadow what's about to happen?
  • Why was it important for Morgan to relive the scene in the boat when his brother died and what did he learn from the "conversation" with his brother?

  • 3. Is there such a thing as a Chinese Partnership? Have you ever heard of one before? Do you understand how it works? What would be the advantage of such an arrangement?

  • 4. In addition to all the other things going on in the book, there's a development of relationships between several of the major characters. Which relationships would you say have undergone the most change at the end of the book? Can you see the "character arc" of each character that Mary Alice spoke about earlier?

  • 5.. What difference did the discovery of presence of the cemetery of Nona's ancestors make to the Chinese partnership?

  • 6..Are you familiar with the story of Parsifal and the Fisher King? (Mary Alice: did you fashion the book to go along with the legend or did you think of it after you got well into the book?) If the story parallels this plot, what do you think was the Holy Grail in the book?

  • 7. What struck you most in the last four chapters of the book?

    I had an electric moment myself but you'll laugh at what it was. It was this: "Back in Africa, when somebody was buried, their kin put some of their favorite items on the grave and let nature carry on. So that's what our people did."

    I had a good friend who died about 2 years ago. She used to tell me about visiting her husband's grave in a local church cemetery. She was somewhat discomfited by things which seemed to have been left or keep appearing on one of the graves. One day there would be a birthday cake. One day a coke. It bothered her. She's gone now and I've wondered, of course, ever since what might be happening. Or if it is still happening, and what it meant. One day there was a pack of cigarettes. Apparently it was known that the deceased was very fond of these items and had had a birthday shortly before one of my friend's visits.

    So when I read this passage I literally jumped up out of my seat. It may NOT be the same thing but it's pretty darn close to it, I had never heard of this custom in any form and am very glad to know it has happened before and that there is a logical explanation for it.

    So let's hear from you now and what struck you in the final chapters of the book.

    I don't understand why Morgan was so upset when he read those letters? Do you?
  • Hats
    October 25, 2005 - 04:30 am
    Ginny, oh yes! I definitely believe Mama June gained control in the end. Without her Preston would not have made a stunning recovery. I still believe Mama June became a blossoming flower. Mama June began her friendship again with Nona, rebuilt her marriage and she listened to Morgan's stunning advice and became a working part of keeping the property, Sweetgrass. I love the way she didn't fall for Adele's weird and cruel and selfish proposals.

    And yes, you can definitely have a pleasant personality and also show control. This is, I think, what makes up the total woman.

    October 25, 2005 - 04:41 am
    "Back in Africa, when somebody was buried, their kin put some of their favorite items on the grave and let nature carry on. So that's what our people did."

    I am so glad Mary Alice Monroe included this custom in the book. I had never heard of this custom. Reading about it brought tears to my eyes. Then, I really boohooed while reading about the ancestral graves on the Sweetgrass property.

    Sadly, Rosa Parks died last night. What a courageous woman! It's great to have read Sweetgrass. Sweetgrass made me appreciate the melting pot of America.

    October 25, 2005 - 09:47 am
    "Back in Africa, when somebody was buried, their kin put some of their favorite items on the grave and let nature carry on. So that's what our people did."

    When I read that portion, I was remembering the Curious Minds discussion of Eco Friendly Cemetaries and Burials. The articles I read then made it sound like a fairly new thing. The passage in Sweetgrass made it obvious that this was something that has existed for a long time. When I first heard about it my immediate reaction was "that is how I want to be buried" ... in nature. So peaceful.

    Maize was shown that Nona meant more to the Blakelys than Maize thought. The scene where the entire family (including Nona and her husband and excluding Adele and Hank) ate dinner together on the porch completed the transition that I saw happening from the beginning when everyone was in their "roles" (parent/child, "master"/servant, etc.) to a place of inclusiveness and possibilities.

    I fell that Morgan needed to relive his experience in the boat and "hear" his brother to remember clearly enough to be able to feel good about himself and let go of his guilt. It would be wonderful to be able to have a conversation with someone who is gone to clear up things that are still murky. So many more things can be asked/heard from the distance time provides.

    October 25, 2005 - 01:57 pm
    Morgan was intruding into Mary June's privacy when he read the letters, but I think most anyone who found them would have done that. I can understand his disappointment in Mary June, though. I think he'd put her on the proverbial pedestal because he felt so estranged from Preston as a child. What a shock it was to him that his mother had an affair with his uncle and a child born out of that relationship was raised as his brother. Part of Morgan's problems with Preston stemmed from his feeling that Hamlin was the favored son. I'm thinking that if Preston showed favoritism to Hamlin, it may have been because he wanted to reassure Mary June that he loved her and Hamlin equally with Morgan and Nan. Until Morgan confronted Preston with his feelings of being "second" he was unable to release his feelings about that.

    I don't know if Mary June would have told him about Hamlin's birth unless Preston died. I can understand why she kept it secret. I'm not so sure I would want my children to know about such a complex family secret if I had one. There's always the fear that the adult child would not understand and the revelation might cause an estrangement between parent and child--or if the secret child was revealed during his/her lifetime, it could have caused hard feelings between the children. However, much of the book's theme concentrated on the harm that secrets can do to relationships, so perhaps after the personal growth in Mary June and Preston's relationship after the stroke, she could have then been open with her children about it. Mary Alice has a way of working every unfortunate circumstance to a happy ending so I'm sure she had alternate endings in mind as she plotted the book. Sue

    October 25, 2005 - 02:16 pm
    I think Marjorie and Sue said everything so well. Mary June did bloom, experience personal growth in the end. I just have this gnawing feeling that her personal growth came by way of and through the help of her family. Preston, in the beginning, showed his sustainable love for Mary June. Morgan picked up, I think, where Preston left off and helped Mary June deal with the past and present.

    So, I believe that Mary Alice Monroe helped me to see that personal growth is a work in process. Also, at times, building character and becoming a better person can not happen without the help of those who love us.

    I really loved the characters, Morgan and Preston. So at odds with one another, but I can't remember anything done by them that harmed others.

    I still would like to know why Mary Alice Monroe connected the Bison to Morgan's character. The Bison is such a big part of American History. Why did Mary Alice Monroe use the Bison to help Morgan work through his guilt about losing his brother?

    October 25, 2005 - 07:09 pm
    Perhaps Mary Alice used the Bison because they were practically destroyed by men for the love of money and power. The family was almost destroyed (also Sweetgrass) by Adele's love of money and power. Morgan felt a connection to the Bison because by helping them return to their habitat, he was healing himself--for the loss of his brother, home and family. Later he was able to save Sweetgrass because of his love for the environment--Hamlin, the family. Sweetgrass, and the Bison. I'm not good with metaphors, but I do think the suggestion that Bison were at one time considered expendable by men for their gain leads Morgan to understanding that the possible loss of Sweetgrass is similar. Maybe Mary Alice will explain why she had Morgan go west to that saving work. Sue

    October 26, 2005 - 02:19 am
    I think you're both fabulous with metaphors and catching what's wanted.

    I reread Sue's post many times. This concept of a secret revealed is very troubling to me. We've all got secrets. The idea that in 2005 a son might feel disillusioned about his mother when he read (?? Isn't that itself a...not nice thing to do? I guess you are right and any of us would have read those letters, but I can't see, in 2005, why THAT would make such a difference to him). I am not seeing him put her on that pedestal but I had not considered that angle. He didn't have (or thought he didn't, wasn't that raw, tho) his father's love, and...I think you're right, Sue, when he found out that his mother also was...oh I dunno. I'm hung up on this one thing.

    This is 2005. He himself is living with Kristina tho it would seem he does not think it will last? How can he cast any stones?

    I would hate to think that the revelation of a secret which really had nothing to do with the child would cause a change in...how that grown child regarded the parent! That's scary! (you can tell who has what in THEIR closets, maybe I better do some housekeeping) hahahaha

    This "mom liked you best" thing, repeated here in two different characters, Morgan and Adele (who as a grown woman should have gotten over it, but obviously has not, how real and true is that? I could tell you some stories about that type of behavior) is one of the driving forces in this book.

    We can't say that's all bad, because it has worked to the good: everybody has finally rallied round and is trying to do something positive.

    Do you think Morgan will stay?

    Wouldn't you love to see a sequel to this? What will Adele do? What will Nan do for that matter?

    Sue what a fabulous explanation of the bison and Morgan, and what a fabulous question, Hats, I could not figure out anything except the long way away but I think Sue has a wonderful take on it, again nature, again endangered! Well done!

    Hats, this is a wonderful point:

    I really loved the characters, Morgan and Preston. So at odds with one another, but I can't remember anything done by them that harmed others.

    If you look at the harm done by the characters to the others, which was inadvertent (Preston seems to have hurt Morgan or that's how Morgan took it?) and which deliberate, and does that difference MAKE a difference in the plot? In other words could we chart the action BY that difference?

    Summing up time: we've all commented on how real the characters are, but who is the least believable character in the book and why?

    October 26, 2005 - 04:56 am
    I would love to see Mary Alice Monroe write a sequel! I would like to see Morgan return to Montana. Then, we could have a "Go West young man" theme. Of course, I would settle for the Blakely's remaining in South Carolina. I love South Carolina. South Carolina is unique in a beautiful and wonderful way.

    I truly love Mary Alice Monroe's writing. I think MAM has the power to take us anywhere in the world and make our five senses work overtime in enjoyment. I will always remember all I have come to learn about the Sweetgrass baskets. Until I read MAM's book I didn't know about Sweetgrass. Then, I discovered that its disappearance is another problem our environment is facing.

    I have one more question. My family have visited a few beaches: Pensacola, St.Pete, Virginia Beach, Biloxi, Jekyll Island, Atlantic City, New Jersey and Myrtle Beach, S.C. All of the beaches are wonderful. I know with all of her travels MAM has visited many more beaches. It's known that each beach is different. Mary Alice Monroe, which beach is your favorite?

    I really do hate to see you leave us. I can't believe it's almost November! Please, never stop writing. You have a grand talent.

    October 27, 2005 - 06:24 am
    "a child born out of that relationship was raised as his brother." Hamlin WAS a brother. I have two half-brothers and one half-sister and I always refer to them as brothers and sister. Half or whole there is still a relationship there.

    Adele is the one who seems to have been the most left out of the family circle so why shouldn't she feel the way she does? I fully understood her anger and her turning to money as the answer even though it showed little character on her part. There are lots of people in the world who don't understand the "life isn't fair" adage.

    I have heard of a Chinese partnership before only it wasn't called that. Don't remember now what it was called.

    October 27, 2005 - 06:59 am
    The most painful truth is that, in a family, it is impossible to avoid being hurt or hurting another family member. For me this is not a new revelation. It is just a painful bit of knowledge to accept. I especially hate knowing that, with all my trying, my children might have been damaged in some big or small way.

    For years Morgan felt slighted by his father, Preston. In the meantime, Preston was striving to prove he loved his brother's child, Hamlin. Preston, I feel, was striving to keep the family circle together and to prove his unjudgmental love for Mama June.

    However, with all of his striving, Morgan felt he failed. Perhaps, Mama June felt he failed too. Her anger is clearly recognizable on the porch that day.

    Morgan, Adele and Nan, each one, seemed to have a hole inside. Some hunger that wasn't filled by their parents. So, my statement that no harm was done is really an untrue one. It is true that we hurt others without meaning too. We can only say we are sorry. Then, try to change.

    Unfortunately, Adele didn't wait around to hear the word sorry or see the changes.

    Mary Alice Monroe
    October 27, 2005 - 08:37 am
    It's difficult to go back to the hearts of all these characters and recall their struggles. I do know that for each of them, the decision --with the help of prayer, reflection and love from each other--to let go of anger and earthly dependency on things was the step needed to move forward in peace and unconditional love AND forgiveness. Forgiveness was key for all of them. The letting go of bitterness and pain to finally have space for acceptance and joy.

    The one scene that was most emotional for me was the scene with Morgan at Blakely's Bluff when he cried out to his brother. I had written that scene three times. In the first draft of the book, I had spent much more time developing the love story between Morgan and Kristina. In that first draft, Morgan was in bed with Kristina at Blakely's Bluff when he had the nightmare. He had the after-discussion with Kristina. It didn't work as she came across as a therapist.

    The second time I wrote the scene with Mama June running in. That didn't work. Then I had a dream of Hamlin and Morgan. I woke up, went directly to the computer and wrote that scene, crying all the time. I knew I had it right. Every time I read that scene, I tear up.

    Someone asked about Parsifal. I didn't know that I would use that legend in the novel until I was rewriting it. Actually, I was more focused on the Prodigal Son aspect. My sister (and muse) Marguerite asked me if I was writing about Parsifal and my mouth dropped open for I saw it all so completely. I think the mind works in mysterious ways for I've always loved that legend and it was likely all in my subconscious. Plus, I enjoyed having Mama June tell a long-overdue bedtime story to her son. She's cuddled in bed again with her daughter after the ghost episode, now she's a mother with her son. It reinforced her grabbing back the reigns of motherhood. And didn't her children need this?

    I'll come by again. I'm truly enjoying your discussion!

    October 27, 2005 - 06:40 pm
    that was my first thought but after rethinking decided no. I dont want to know if things stayed well and all's well that ended well First because sometimes I think it is time to leave the characters behind or what I think I do make up my own mind how they survived and lived their lives. They have all been given a life in the story and they have moved on to live that life. We can only hope they have learned some things of value Even Adele will someday I think appreciate the fact the Sweetgrass will always remain ..

    The fact that the children were loved is important and also that there were some imperfect results, We can only give our children love and caring but we cant make them be that way ,,,You are family or you are not if you choose not to be that is a loss you will most likely feel acutely someday .. Family is or family isnt My three youngest were all adopted as babies and the youngest is now 38 and they are all family ,in fact we have added to our family people whom I have always called "RELATIVES OF MY HEART" so when we have a :family: get together there are now my 4 children and thier spouses, my 8 grandchildren , 4 other adults and five other children and if we had room there would most likely be more >The relationships have lasted now for over 20 years .. and at some events the parents of my inlaws and their families get together .. My youngest daughter used to live and hour and a half away and moved from a wonderul home there to one about 20 min away..because her husband was an only child and her childrens aunts and uncles and cousins all lived here. they do things together, vacation together,so many things I could mention but the important thing they are "FAMILY" but it not a closed circle since we are always opening the circle to include others and LOL I guess if we had room there would be lots of others. They have always known they were adopted and have never wanted anything different. I wish I knew the secret but I dont think there is one , Just like the characters in the story each one had to find their way home and find that love was there. I hate to see this end but you know what MARY ALICE MONROE is and author and she is going to write more!!!!!!!! God love us all , anna

    October 28, 2005 - 05:10 am
    Denjer's back!! Welcome back, Denjer!

    I understand Adele feeling the way she did, because she WAS left out but what… I guess what I don't understand is her taking it to these lengths. She really harbors that grudge. I have known people who harbor grudges that long, but not people who don't mellow out with age? She has not. She's got to be in her 60's. What does it say when somebody just can't "get over it?"

    I HAVE known people to take something like this to their graves, but not to be so PRO active with it?

    Have any of you?

    Denjer, do you understand why Morgan was so upset with his mother and disillusioned after he read her letters? I liked Sue's explanation but something about this troubles me, the fact that he was so upset?

    Hats, I've put your question in the heading. I thought you really had some good points about failure and what might have caused that, that's yet another issue in the book, and I really liked your thought about people with a hole in them. Haven't we all known such people? NOTHING absolutely nothing can fill them up, it would seem

    Anna, I feel almost the opposite, I really want to know what happened to Adele, I am hoping that she turned herself around, but there doesn't seem to be any sign of it and she's not getting any younger, I hate to see her go to her grave like that, don't you?

    Thank you for returning also to the theme of what is FAMILY? What a beautiful example you give! I think family can extend beyond ties of blood to embrace anybody, I have known people more sustained by friends in my Mobile Meals route and by others helping than by "family" members. As Hats said there is conflict in every family, isn't it a shame what the result is, sometimes. The parameters of "Family" are also extended in this book to include Nona and her husband and daughter, it's quite a beautiful thing to see.

    Mary Alice, what a stunning post! Thank you so much for sharing with us your three attempts to write the scene with Morgan, that is fascinating, and for letting us see how much care and emotion you put in your books and how an author gets involved with his or her characters, I've learned a great deal from you in this discussion. We really appreciate your being here.

    We only have a few days left now and I wonder if any of you have any closing thoughts or last minute points to make?

    Thank you all for a wonderful discussion, and particularly, thank you, Mary Alice, for everything you have done for us on SeniorNet, we appreciate it, and you, so much!

    October 28, 2005 - 05:31 am

    I loved MAM's last post. Mary Alice Monroe truly strives and succeeds in giving us a book to think about and a book that can help us grow and change. Her books have heart.

    People do live with grudges. I hope Adele won't live with all that bitterness. If so, she will never find happiness. I would like to know what happens to her too.

    I think MAM mentioned the ghost and the broach. I loved that part of the story. I do like the appearance of a ghost in a story. I wonder if MAM could tell us why she chose a ghost and the story of the broach. MAM, is the broach one of your family heirlooms? Is there a personal story behind the broach?

    By the way, Hank seemed pretty petty, cruel and angry too. Would Adele have gone as far without Hank's bitterness egging her on? Would she have backed down? Maybe Adele will have to bare her own guilt. Can we ever blame someone else for our shortcomings?

    October 28, 2005 - 06:24 am
    Even though Hank showed a poor example as a father and husband. His boys, if I remember correctly, chose a different way. So young and yet the boys chose love over anger. It seems to prove that wisdom has nothing to do with age. Already, these boys could see that a loving heart is far better than an angry heart.

    Mary Alice Monroe
    October 28, 2005 - 07:36 am
    Yes, I do have a story about the broach. When I was young we moved into a grand old house that had been owned by a woman who was born and raised in it. And she died in it. My parents had the house redone, painted, etc. One day I was getting something for my mother out of her closet in the master bedroom and I found a small tin box on the floor in the far corner of the closet. It was old and battered. When I opened it, I found several pieces of Victorian jewelry! My mother did not know where it came from and surely, it was not there before because it had been painted. We'd always felt the old woman's presence in the master bedroom, but never as a threat. We just assumed she welcomed us into her home.

    Many old houses in Charleston boast a ghost. It only seemed fitting for Sweetgrass to have one. I wanted to use Beatrice as a signal to acknowledge when one of the women (Mary June and Nan) acted in strength and conviction.

    I was asked if I have a favorite beach. I have to say my bit of beach near Breach Inlet on Isle of Palms is my favorite. I know it so well, know how it changes with storms, seasons and what birds migrate there and when. Probably the most gorgeous beach I've ever seen was on St. Bart's. I have found, however, that when I look out over the sea on a still night when a bright moon casts a ribbon of light over the water, the thrill I get is the same no matter where in the world I am. Whether it is five star hotel, a stroll on some beach, or at home--the feeling of awe is universal.

    October 28, 2005 - 08:11 am
    Mary Alice Monroe, thank you again for sharing another beautiful part of your life.

    October 28, 2005 - 10:29 am
    MARY ALICE MONROE: I was delighted to read your description of how you wrote the final version of the scene where Morgan relives the accident. When you provide glimpses of your life, I get a clue as to how writers can incorporate what they know into a story. You appear to me to really love the Low Country and your stories reflect that so well.

    GINNY: I wonder if Morgan was upset with Mama June because he had felt loved by her and suddenly realized that maybe he was not conceived in love. Perhaps only Hamlin had been conceived in love (in Morgan's mind anyway). That is about all I can come up with. Since Morgan felt that Preston did not love him because he didn't measure up, suddenly finding a reason for Mama June not to love him so much would be devastating.

    I don't know whether or not I would like to read a sequel. Frequently sequels are a disappointment to me. Of course, this is Mary Alice Monroe. Her sequel would most likely not disappoint.

    October 29, 2005 - 11:24 am
    Gosh that Victorian jewelry story gave me chills, just reading about it. I loved that, every bit of it!

    I've also been reading over a colorful and impressive brochure here that one of our sons brought us, on Conservation Easements, there appear to be several. Some of the points it makes are:

  • Is a Conservation easement right for me?

  • You want to continue to own and manage your land and determine what it looks like 20, 50, or 100 years from now.

  • You are willing to give up certain rights, such as the right to large-scale development for you and all future owners.

  • You have a need for potential significant tax deductions and credits.

  • Estate taxes are forcing you to sell land against your wishes

  • (Sounds like Preston on the nose, doesn't it?)

    It also says that you can control it "beyond the grave," and that you decide whether or not to allow the building of additional homes while keeping the right to grow crops or requiring the protection of a unique habitat for wildlife. You can decide whether or not to allow public access. They are quite complicated, but whatever you decide, anybody who buys the land or inherits it has to live by that agreement. It's binding forever.

    So we've learned quite a lot in reading this book, haven't we? We've had a super read, a super plot, super characters so real I really want to find out what happened to Adele. I can see a whole book on Adele! It may seem she has no redeemable qualities, but I would love to see somebody try! Good point Hats, on Hank, too!

    Marjorie I think we need another book to find out about Morgan, too, we haven't really learned where he's going, if he's staying, and the last word I thought I saw on his relationship with Kristina was that he didn't think it would last since most of his didn't.

    I agree, Hats, too, I have loved every single thing Mary Alice has brought here: Parsifal! That was incredible!! Love it.

    In addition we've learned about Chinese partnerships, sweetgrass, sweetgrass basketmaking, and a LOT of other things, it's been fun to be silent dinner partners at the table, and we've learned a lot about each other in this discussion, too, whch I have also very much enjoyed.

    And riches on top of riches, as the very best thing, we've learned about Mary Alice Monroe, who through her own efforts here has shown us what kind of a person she is: dedicated, disciplined, wonderful, generous, just…awesome! Just think of the many, many things she's offered here we NEVER would EVER have known about this book, how it was written, and the characters. Thank YOU Mary Alice, for everything you've done. This discussion will always remain in Archives and a Reader's Guide is being prepared on it with your Interview and remarks easily obtainable for generations of your readers to come.

    Well, as much as I hate to put my lemonade and my book down and get up out of the porch rocker, all good things must end, unfortunately, so we'll leave the porch till next time (I don't think there will BE a next time like this one, do you? One for our memory books) and say thank you ALL, and thank you, especially, Mary Alice!

    It's been great!
  • Marjorie
    November 1, 2005 - 04:27 pm
    This discussion is now Read Only and will be archived in a few days.