Mary Margaret Masters, also known as Maggs, is generally happy with her well-to-do life as a wife and mother in Mobile, Alabama, but is beginning to feel “that something was definitely missing. She thought the something might be herself.”
Maggs, 52, loves caring for Stephen, her husband of thirty years, their four children, three young grandchildren, and all her activities, but is frustrated: “She felt like a hamster running inside one of those brightly colored wheels, not knowing where she was going or how to get off, but almost always exhausted at not getting anywhere.”
She’s thrown a curve or possibly a lifeline when her Great Aunt Eleanor passes away and leaves Myrtlewood, the family estate in South Carolina, to her on the promise she live there for one month before deciding what to do with the property. It’s during that time Maggs starts writing her first novel and meets a man who makes her question even more her life in Mobile.
This is Pritchett’s debut novel. She’s retired, living in a small Alabama town, but grew up traveling as an “army brat.”
Though most readers might associate Indian summer with a warm autumn, it also means a flourishing time occurring toward the end of something, so the title refers to Maggs’ on-going introspection.
It’s a testament to Pritchett’s talent that her characters seem to live and breathe and are authentic in their language and relationships with other characters. We all know people like Maggs’ daughter, Leah, who gets on her “high horse” and can be judgmental.
The author also shows that, as in real life, situations aren’t all black and white; they can be gray, with no real villains and heroes.
The writing is wonderful: “Before Tom came in from his evening chores, the journal had been reduced to ashes, and he found them drinking tea in what he might have described as a conspiratorial mood if he had been an articulate man.”
The author indicates she began this manuscript nearly twenty years ago. While the questions at the center of the novel remain timeless, advances in technology would probably dictate that as a successful business owner, Stephen would more than likely have a cell phone that Maggs could call, rather than just the office or home answering machines. Since lack of communication between the two is at times central to the plot, it might work better if the story was actually set back in the time it was originally conceived.
This book is recommended for those who enjoy books with great true-to-life characters, told in wonderfully crafted language by a very talented storyteller.
The cover—depicting a stone bench beneath overhanging trees—is a drawing of what a part of Myrtlewood might look like.
“Teas, dances, graduations, engagements, weddings, christenings—all were celebrated grandly and joyously at Myrtlewood; and there was even an occasional retreat to mend a broken heart.”
Robin Farrell Edmunds is a media clerk at Lee Elementary and a Manhattan resident.