Friday, May 23, 2014

A Southern Girl

A Southern Girl
A Novel
John Warley
Foreword by Therese Anne Fowler
May 24, 2014
Story River Books/USC Press
Idgie Says:
This novel contains a totally different twist on being A Southern Girl.  What if you clearly stand out as not necessarily one of the Junior League Debutantes?  How do you work your way into society's mold - a mold that is very important to your parents who were raised with the privileged and "purity" of the Genteel South?  

This is what happens when little Soo-Yun, against all odds, is adopted by two privileged Southerners. Against all odds by the fact that she actually had a mother who was forced to give her up but kept wanting her back, and some horrific scars on her body from botched operations.  The chances of someone adopting a "damaged" baby when so many others were perfect were small.  

But it did happen and Soo - Yun moved to Charleston and was started on the quest to become a Southern Belle -- again against all odds.

This book has some great detailed description regarding international adoption and also traditions and issues in other countries where these adoptions take place.    It also has a huge overlaying discussion of adoption - how does the adopted child feel, do they know they're different? If they do, how do they feel about that?  Finally, how does the parent handle it when the child grows up and wants to know where they're from? 

Another interesting side to the story are the parents themselves. What if you were so invested in the ideal of the Old South that you yourself are unsure about bringing in such an obvious outsider?

A lot of good questions and struggles in this novel.  A nice hearty novel that you can't fly through - there needs to be some time spent with it.  I also believe it might leave you with some thinking time afterwords.    

A novel that lingers in the mind is always a good thing. 

I will say that in my opinion, there could have been some streamlining to the story itself, it bogged down and got 'dry' in places with too much detail that could have been removed without hurting the bones of the story - but again - that's just my opinion.


Book Description:
The worlds of privilege and poverty collide in this moving tale of adoption, identity, belonging, dedication, and love.

Set against the exquisite, historical backdrop of Charleston's insular South of Broad neighborhood, A Southern Girl is a tale of international adoption and of families lost, then found anew through revelations, courage, and the perseverance of a love without bounds. With two biological sons and a promising career, Coleman Carter seems set to fulfill his promise as a resourceful trial lawyer, devoted husband, and dutiful father until his wife, Elizabeth, champions their adoption of a Korean orphan. This seemingly altruistic mission estranges Coleman's conservative parents and demands that he now embrace the unknown as fully as he has always entrenched himself in the familiar.

Elizabeth, a self-proclaimed liberal with a global sense of duty, is eager for the adoption, while Coleman, a scion of the Old South, is at best a reluctant participant. But the arrival of Soo Yun (later called Allie) into the Carter household and the challenging reactions of Coleman's peers and parents awakens in him a broadening sense of responsibility and dedication to his new family that opens his eyes to the subtle racism and exclusionary activities that had dominated his sheltered life. To garner Allie's entrance into Charleston society, Coleman must come to terms with his past and guide Allie toward finding her own origins as the Carters forge a new family identity and confront generations-old fears inherent in Southern traditions of purity and prestige.

Deftly told through the distinctive voices of Allie's birth mother, her orphanage nurse, her adoptive mother Elizabeth, and finally Coleman himself, A Southern Girl brings us deeply into Allie's plights—first for her very survival and then for her sense of identity, belonging, and love in her new and not always welcoming culture. In this truly international tale, John Warley guides us through the enclaves of southern privilege in New Hampton, Virginia, and Charleston, the poverty-stricken back alleys of Seoul, South Korea, the jungles of Vietnam, and the stone sidewalks of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, as the bonds between father and daughter become strong enough to confront the trials of their pasts and present alike.

The first release from Pat Conroy's Story River Books, A Southern Girl includes a foreword by New York Times bestselling novelist Therese Anne Fowler.
John Warley, a native South Carolinian, is a graduate of the Citadel and the University of Virginia School of Law. He practiced law in Virginia until 1993, when he moved to Mexico to write and teach. Now a full-time writer, Warley divides his time between Beaufort, South Carolina, and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. His previous books include Bethesda's Child and The Moralist. He and his wife, Barbara, have three sons, Caldwell, Nelson, and Carter, born in Newport News, Virginia, and a daughter, MaryBeth, born in Seoul, South Korea.

Click HERE for Excerpt

A few glowing accolades below:

"John Warley's A Southern Girl is a stunning achievement: a beautifully written and heartfelt account of a father's love for an adopted daughter, and his struggles in helping her find her own identify in an elite yet conflicted society. Based on the author's own experiences, this triumphant story belongs to anyone who has ever loved, grieved, questioned, rejoiced, despaired, and risked it all for the strongest bond of all, that glorious, undefinable unit we call family."—Cassandra King, bestselling author of five novels including Moonrise

"With both skill and passion, John Warley carries the reader through generations and countries. Following plot twists and heart-turns, we become a member of many families, loving and loathing as we do in any real family. A Southern Girl is rich with trustworthy and vulnerable narrators who allow us the privilege of entering the secret traditions and lore-soaked South as well as the clandestine corners of the character's souls. This is a gorgeous, heartfelt book from a masterful storyteller; I didn't want to miss a word of Warley's whispered secrets."—Patti Callahan Henry, New York Times bestselling author of And Then I Found You, Coming Up for Air, and others

"John Warley's novel A Southern Girl takes us on a fascinating and powerful emotional journey that proves itself to be a richly rewarding story of life and family. It's simply unforgettable. Congratulations, Mr. Warley!"—Dorothea Benton Frank, New York Times bestselling author of ten novels

"Forget what you know about the South. John Warley serves up a unique perspective and challenges perceptions of the southern belle. A powerhouse of emotion, A Southern Girl explores the depths of parental love and the lengths to which it will go. Warley's words are fresh and urgent and beg you to keep reading."—Nicole Seitz, author of A Hundred Years of Happiness and Beyond Molasses Creek
"Nobody does family pride like a Southerner. But in his balletic, big-hearted new novel, John Warley cajoles and challenges the limits of that pride. Here, it's the beaming, fatherly love awakened by an adopted child that's cause for celebration, rather than one's ancestral silver or membership in the St. Cecilia Society. While reading A Southern Girl—-a rebel yell for the traditional, non-traditional family—I was wondrously reminded of theologian Stanley Hauerwas's great line: 'If you want to welcome the stranger, have a child.' No kidding."—Robert Leleux, author of The Memoirs of a Beautiful Boy and The Living End