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Picks and Pans Main: Books

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by Leila Meacham |



People PICK

Like Gone with the Wind, this 600-page, multigenerational epic is as gloriously entertaining as it is vast. Roses follows the lives of three powerful families in eastern Texas: The Tolivers (cotton), the Warwicks (lumber), and the DuMonts (retail). Set over seven decades, the story unfurls at a decadently unhurried pace, with the life of beautiful Mary Toliver at its heart. After Mary inherits the family plantation just before WWI, her mother and brother, feeling betrayed, turn against her. When Percy Warwick, the man she loves, asks her to give up planting cotton to be a wife and mother, Mary forsakes her lover rather than abandon her beloved “Somerset.” Percy and Mary (like Scarlett and Rhett) are made for each other, but misunderstandings and tragedies keep them apart.

An elderly woman when the novel begins, Mary finally grapples with what her devotion to Somerset has cost her. Hoping to save Rachel, her great-niece and heir, from the same fate, she sells the plantation and changes her will. Meacham, who wrote Roses twenty-five years ago and didn’t rework the manuscript until she retired, has Mary and Percy each tell their story. When Rachel learns of her aunt’s seeming betrayal, she makes the two narratives one as she uncovers family secrets that will change her life. A delightful tale of love, obsession and regret, Roses transports.

Marriage and Other Acts of Charity

by Kate Braestrup |



Chaplain to the Maine Warden Service, Kate Braestrup has survived tragedy (the death of her first husband, chronicled in Here If You Need Me) and regularly stands witness to the sorrows of others. Through it all, she keeps her feet on the ground and her faith and humor intact. She uses real-life stories to contemplate love, loss and religion, and by sharing her struggle toward understanding she shines the way for us. “It is certainly possible that love isn’t the most important thing in human life,” she muses. “God knows, churches fail, and I fail at love with embarrassing frequency …” Still, “here I am, my head … bent down before my folded, tainted hands, praying.” Braestrup’s book asks us to stay open to grace.

Fun with Problems

by Robert Stone |



The “problems” in question are drink and drugs, yet here inner chaos has an almost gentlemanly sheen. In the title story, a lawyer picks up a pretty psychologist and couches his drunken mistreatment of her in stately tones. Other stories, fraught with rough poetry, feature louts who are blackly funny on the subject of self-destruction. As one puts it, “She kept her ghosts close at hand and always on call.”

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

by Beth Hoffman |



Twelve-year-old CeeCee Honeycutt has been cursed with a crazy mother who parades around town in old beauty-pageant gowns. Thankfully her great-aunt Tootie whisks CeeCee away to Savannah after tragedy strikes. Not a whole lot happens in this debut novel, but anyone in need of a southern-girl-power fix will find it engaging. And it offers an invaluable reminder: Even when things look bleak, a few good friends can turn your life around.