I think she's done it right this time. Anne Rivers Siddons always writes good books with a Southern theme. The characters are interesting, and I always finish each book satisfied.
However, I think Ms. Siddons may have finally hit Southern pay dirt with Nora, Nora. I was expecting another sweet little story about the South, but what I got in return was so much more. Read on:
Life moves pretty slowly in Lytton, Georgia in 1961. Of course, 12 year-old Peyton McKenzie couldn't care less. She is fully convinced she killed her mother, who died in childbirth with Peyton.
Peyton keeps this information to herself. She has no friends, except for the other two members of "The Losers Club" which meets after school. Her father pretty much stays out of her life, as he is mourning the loss of his wife and the unrelated death of his son as well.
The only person who pays attention to Peyton is uppity Aunt Augusta. The only reason she cares is because she thinks Peyton runs wild and needs to learn to be a lady. This is the last thing Peyton wants.
In an attempt to get some guidance into Peyton's life, her father, Frazier, accepts an invitation for Cousin Nora to come stay in the house. Peyton has no time to object, as Nora is already on her way from Florida.
Nora's arrival in a pink 1955 convertible Ford Thunderbird causes a great stir in the sleepy little town. She smokes. She swears. She also can handle all the venom Aunt Augusta can spew. The town gossip travels fast, and it doesn't bother Nora one bit.
Slowly, Peyton comes to like this worldly cousin of hers. For the first time, Peyton actually has a woman in her life. It merely starts with a makeover, but soon Peyton is seeing the real beauty of inner self as well.
This story is about so much more than a simple makeover. Nora, Nora is about the transformation of an entire town. The Civil Rights movement has begun, but somebody forgot to tell that to the people of Lytton. Nora has made it her job to do so.
Nora teaches an integrated English class. That alone is big news here, but the topics the students cover are racy as well.
It is as though Nora is trying to open the eyes of the citizens of Lytton one by one. And she is succeeding. The students learn to get along somewhat. Peyton's dad Frazier, can't help but be affected by Nora as well. For the first time in a while, he opens his eyes to the world around him.
So you see, this really isn't a story of a cosmetic makeover. Rather, it is a story of a makeover of the inner soul of a town, a family, and a little girl.
In her previous book, Low Country, Ms. Siddons wrote of a special element of the South that was disappearing in the name of progress. I liked Low Country, but was afraid all her future books would reflect the author's particular longing for the good old days.
Not so with Nora, Nora. Though the story takes place in the South of 1961, the setting is more of a backdrop than a message itself. This story is truly about the characters and for that I am relieved.
What made the story so successful in my eyes? Again, it's the characters. They were interesting and believable. Though Peyton is only twelve years old, she has genuine thoughts and feelings. Nora herself is just as complex, with a hidden past that prevents her from settling in one place too long.
As for the dialogue, it is funny and intriguing. Ms. Siddons always has a way with words, in my opinion. Her books always make the reader think. Of course there is also a great deal of humor, but it is the genuine kind, not the silly slapstick stuff. I appreciate that in Ms. Siddons' work.
This book has been granted AmyBean's coveted five-star rating. Normally, I just save that rating for books that blow me away. This story didn't do that, but it is solid through and through. Therefore, it is worthy of such a rating.
I highly recommend this book to everyone who enjoys reading. Fans of Anne Rivers Siddons, of course, will love it. Regular ol' people should love Nora, Nora as well.