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Charms for the Easy Life Mass Market Paperback – April 1, 1994

104 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Three women find solace in an eccentric household in Raleigh, N.C., in Gibbons's touching fourth novel.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

When Charlie Kate Birch revives a North Carolina man after an unsuccessful lynching in about 1900, he gives her a watch, a box of snuff, and a rabbit's foot charm for the easy life. Charlie Kate, a self-educated doctor, is a woman ahead of her timeDtalented, headstrong, popular, successful. Her marriage to an illiterate ferry operator on the Pasquatank River deteriorates to the point that he abandons her and their daughter, Sophia. Charlie Kate perseveres, teaching Sophia from her wide store of knowledge, but her daughter, at 18, marries a "cad" whose philandering makes her life miserable. They do manage to produce Margaret, though, yet another in the line of intelligent and beautiful Birch women. When Sophia's husband dies, the three women live together harmoniously. One Christmas a young man gives Margaret all the icons and charms from his childhood, but she cannot think of a gift of equal value, so she turns to her grandmother for advice. The charm for the easy life is immediately passed on to Margaret for her use with the warning that the word "easy" can be defined in many ways. Gibbons's writing resonates with Southern charm, depicting the lives of her strong characters with depth and clarity. Beautifully read by Kate Fleming, the story engages the mind and the imagination.DJoanna M. Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island Coll. of Continuing Education Lib., Providence
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Avon (April 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380722704
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380722709
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.8 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (104 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,575,057 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

70 of 72 people found the following review helpful By jmh on December 3, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
This book has more substance to it than some of the readers have recognized. If midwives and stories about medicine in the early to mid 1900's interest you, try this story. Or, if exploring mother-daughter relationships that are positive and make you feel good, try this story. If you love learning how people who love each other interact and take care of each other, read this. If you have ever longed for someone that could have the insight to tell you what is best for you and have a riotous sense of humor, read this. If you enjoy a read that takes a difficult time (WWII) and weaves it through the lives of some incredible women, try this story. You can make it very complex, if you must, or simply take the story as it is, and as it was meant to be. You will find yourself thinking back to these characters often, and wishing for that charming life that made living with each other easy. When you have that, you just may have what it takes for an "easy" life. This book can help in the meantime.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 11, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I have seen negative reviews of this book, but I loved it. My teenage daughter's margin notes made it even more special.
While the story may be unrealistic, it is fiction, and why do we read fiction? I read it for escape, and this book "escapes you" to a place where women are strong, where your grandma can tell you everything you need to know, where there are some bad, lost, and abandoning men, but not all men are bad, where life is full of hope and magic is possible.
It is literate, with references to many authors we should all read. There is some social commentary, some sadness, some things everyone should know (papaya tablets for digestion, aloe for burns, etc.)
Charms for the Easy Life ("depending on your definition of easy" should have been a subtitle) was wonderful. I will be reading more of Kaye Gibbons books in the future.
A lovely novel.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Reviews No More on January 29, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Kaye Gibbons has one of those rare gifts that not all writers possess: the ability to take the lives of fictional people who are seemingly nothing in a high profile society and make them sparkle with with more interest and more reality-based magic than any heavily financed publicity machine could ever do.

You come to believe these three beautiful, strong women and the reasons for why they stand together--not because--but in spite of the unworthy men they've encountered. Grandma Charlie Kate, a smart, literature loving, though uneducated woman, is gifted in natural healings and believes that when a person dies and purges (foam at the mouth), it is all their hopes, dreams, and things left unsaid. She is odd by others' standards, outspoken, and that's what makes people respect her!

Daughter Sophia is the more openly dreamy side of Charlie Kate, hopelessly romantic in spite of a disappointing marriage to a man in yellow shoes, and she loves high fashion. She faints easily at the sight of infections when she helps her mother on housecalls, and is mad for a man named Mr. Baines who takes his sweet time going to the altar.

Sophia's daughter Margaret tells the entire story of the family's somewhat Hemingway-like suicidal history and recounts their lives mainly around WWII. Margaret is more like Charlie Kate, but she still has enough of her mother in her to fall in love with a wounded soldier who comes from a good home, having broken the circle of bad men on the first crack.

Everyone makes such a big deal about the Vietnam soldiers suffering more than any others, and I know that they did their share, but if you read this book and the life breathed into it, you will see that no war and what it does are any good.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on December 5, 1997
Format: Paperback
I read the reviews of this book because I wanted to see what other Amazon-ians thought of one my all-time favorites. I now want to jump up and down on my monitor after the Kirkus review. Boo. Hiss. The review criticizes the book mostly for it's Southern storytelling influence and values, and as someone who read it while temporarily living in the deep South, I have to say that those elements made it all the more special. As a "Transplanted Yankee" I not only learned about the South from this book but it make me appreciate the sense of family that is so abundant there. This book moves through generations of women gifted with honorable traits and as a reader I related to a bit of each of them. That, to me, is the mark of an excellent story.
_Charms for the Easy Life_ is one of the best books you will ever read. I promise. When Oprah selected Gibbons books as her book club selections, I was ticked, but disappointed that this wasn't one of them. This book will lighten your day and paste a grin on your face that will last for days. I highly recommend it...especially for the wintery dark days coming up. This will light a candle in your soul that will warm you for years on end.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Susan Smith on March 22, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Contrary to some of the reviews I have read for this book, I found it believable and enjoyable. Just because you come from a rural background does not mean you cannot develop an appreciation for fine literature or are unable to rise above your origins to make a better life for yourself -- college education notwithstanding. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Charlie Kate was an inspiration and reminded me of similar older people who I grew up with here in the much-disparaged rural state of South Dakota. Most of the people living in the 1930s had no other resources besides themselves. They had to rely on their own ingenuity and that of their neighbors, to pull them through. I think that was very well-illustrated in Gibbons' narrative. The main reason I enjoy Gibbons' books is because in spite of all the trauma her characters go through, they rely on humor to deal with it. That is one of the most valuable lessons that can be learned whether you live in urban America or not.
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