Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir

By Cos Barnes

In her latest book, “Under Magnolia,” Frances Mayes writes: “Thinking hard, writing about these specific days I think I’ll get to the bottom. Why are they remembered? But what one finds in the enterprise of writing is that there is no bottom. Only a contraction into the rhythmic, blood pumping heart of the past and sometimes an expansion out of it.”

In this book, Mayes returns to her birthplace,  Fitzgerald, Georgia, where she was born after her years in California, and Tuscany in the heat of  summer, which she remembers as oppressive. Her incredible vocabulary sparkles on the page as she describes her dysfunctional family with honesty and comes to grips with her relationship to them. Known for her yummy menus, she returns to the South and resurrects many of her mother’s menus – for black bottom pie, grapefruit aspic and numerous recipes using dates.

In this wonderful memoir, she describes her beaus, her years at Randolph Woman’s College (now Randolph College) in Virginia, her outdoor adventures, the books she read voraciously, the harshness of her parents – and their gentleness as well. Speaking of her mother, who lived to age 92 in retirement homes, she writes, “We are baked from the same flour,” “We were two flies in amber,” and “She is the lining in my coat.”

Her reading in April at Weymouth was outstanding!