What if you’re a girl, at age 16, who falls in love with another girl – but it’s the 1940s? And then you moved on, only to get in trouble again? What if you had no reasonable expectation of finding love and living happily ever after?
This is Mary McGhee’s life. She’s been in that situation one too many times. Now in her late 20s, once again she’s starting over, in a new town called Myrtlewood, Alabama. This time she’s taken a position as a secretary at the town lumber mill, owned by the rich and prestigious Dubose family. Little does she know she’s walking into a town full of busybodies and vipers, and the job she’s taken is no simple matter. The head of the family has died, leaving his wealth and the mill to his incompetent son, Tommie Dubose, and Mary must come on the scene and somehow turn the business around while not angering the men in town, many of whom work at the mill.
But Lila Dubose, Tommie’s wife, is a port in the storm, and as Lila and Mary get to know each other sparks begin to fly. Will Miss McGhee once again find herself exiled – or worse?
Bett Norris has crafted an impressive story that takes place after World War II and at the brink of the civil rights movement. Her prose is clean and clear with moments of great beauty and lush description. Readers definitely feel as though we are THERE – living in this small town, at a time when white men seemed to rule all, and opportunities for women, minorities, and gay people were all but impossible to find.
This is no typical romance, and the various characters in the story face mounting obstacles. Anyone stepping outside society’s rules for women and blacks was bound to suffer, and there is great tension and drama in the way Norris rolls out this tale. But the love that grows between various people, in particular, Miss McGhee and Lila Dubose, is a joy to watch. The alliances Mary and Lila make and the stands they take kept me poring over this novel until late into the night.
MISS MCGHEE is an excellent novel, filled with drama, excitement, and passion. The tone is pitch perfect, and the author has created a terrific cast of characters you’ll remember long after finishing the book. I give this one my highest recommendation. ~Lori L. Lake, Midwest Book Review