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The Beauty of the End
Debbie Howells
My Sweet Vidalia - Deborah Mantella

The baby narrates.  The baby, Cieli May, who was stillborn because her father brutally beat her mother, seventeen-year-old Vidalie Lee Kandal Jackson.  Cieli May says, “Doc placed my body oh-so-gently upon my Vidalia’s emptied belly, and my spirit melded with hers.  We’d been upended, but not undone.”  Cieli May’s spirit stayed with Vidalia, initially comforting her, and then gently guiding her through life’s ups and downs.  What happened to make Jamerson (JB) Jackson so brutal?  Vidalia refers to his mom as Gamma Gert, who raised him on her own.  She, lovingly but wrongly, made excuses for him time after time giving him an expectation that the world owed him.  And, so Gamma Gert, excusing him yet again said, “My boy didn’t mean nothin’.  He just don’t know his strength is all.”

 

This took place in the mid-fifties in impoverished rural Georgia.  It was thought-provoking but an emotionally hard story to read.  My heart went out to Vidalia and to the spirit of her dead baby daughter.  But, Vidalia endeavors to keep going with the help of some unlikely people.  Although Gamma Gert seems blind to her boy’s actions, she’s also loving to Vidalia and helps her return to health.  Vidalia eventually gives birth to two sets of twins, for which Cieli May helps her to watch over.  The southern dialect was charming and the culture and characters were true-to-life.  Deborah Mantella has created a very engaging debut.  Rating: 4 out of 5.