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Quite a Year for Plums: A Novel Paperback – April 6, 1999

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Bailey White's dry, low-key drawl is a familiar (and welcome) sound to millions of National Public Radio regulars. On the radio, her intimate vignettes of small-town life are loosely held together by their subjects, who are themselves tightly held together by love, family, and idiosyncrasy. This episodic mode suits her just as well as a novelist. In this audio version of Quite a Year for Plums--which, aside from the occasional bit of atmospheric banjo music, features none but the author's voice--even the temporary denizens of her fictional southern Georgia town have their oddities. A bird artist is obsessed by a vanishing breed of chickens. Another character dreams obsessively of typography. The permanent townsfolk include a woman who believes in little spacemen, a pair of bookish retired schoolteachers, and plant pathologist and banjo picker Roger Meadows, whose peers would like nothing better than to see him settle down with the right woman. The author has an eye--and, of course, ear--for the telling detail and the decisive, domestic moment, and listeners will no doubt enjoy her adept storytelling skills. (Running time: five and one-half hours, four cassettes) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

National Public Radio essayist White's raspy voice is so distinctive that no one else could narrate this, her first novel. Rather than tell us about her relatives and neighbors, as she does in her radio stories, White introduces us to a group of people who could well be her kin. In a series of vignettes, we meet Roger, plant pathologist and peanut virologist, whose well-being is the subject of much concern on the part of retired schoolteachers Hilma and Meade. Roger may be falling in love with newcomer Della, an artist who specializes in painting birds, whom he meets because of the explanatory notes she affixes to items she consigns to the town dump ("This fan works, but it makes a clicking sound and will not oscillate."). People in this community treat one another to strong opinions and with loving respect. Outsiders may consider them eccentric, but in their view they are getting through life as they should. The author's humor is gentle, and the listener will smile often during this recording. Recommended for public libraries.ANann Blaine Hilyard, Lake Villa Dist. Lib.,
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 220 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage Books Ed edition (April 6, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679764925
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679764922
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (89 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #815,088 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Roz Levine on May 2, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Bailey White writes a very small, understated story that takes place in a little south Georgia town. The joy of reading this book is spending time with a very unusual cast of characters...a peanut disease specialist, wildlife artist, collector of electric fans, to name just a few. While reading, you get to watch, unobserved, the comings and goings of these quirky people, as they go about the business of their lives. This is a beautifully written book. It's funny and witty, especially the dialogue. How wonderful to spend time with these people. Ms White doesn't disappoint.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 26, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Reading Quite a Year for Plums is like walking among the residents of a small town, becoming part of their lives and they part of yours, without ever being seen. Bailey White has an uncanny knack for creating characters that come alive. When I finished reading Quite a Year for Plums I was left with the same empty feeling in the pit of my stomach that I had the day I moved from my childhood home in rural Virginia.
Like moving to a new locale, it takes a while to get to know each of the characters. My only criticism of the novel is that during the first few chapters I often found the need to refer to the list of characters. When I purchased the book, I believed that a cast list for a relatively short novel was presumptuous. I later learned that it was a necessity.
I highly recommend Quite a Year for Plums, as well as Mama Makes Up her Mind and Sleeping at the Starlite Motel.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By leb on December 18, 2004
Format: Audio Cassette
I loved this book from start to finish. Life isn't about plot, it's about the little events that shape your life each day. Sometimes you can only see the plot when you get to the end and look backwards, and I think that's the style captured so gracefully here. It's a book with no heroes, no villans, just people with fragile human hearts. The humor is very dry, you will miss it if you aren't paying attention. But the effortless storytelling is very engaging.

If you want something to HAPPEN, if you want some grand GESTURE, and if you have to have everything about life EXPLAINED to you before it makes sense, pass on this book. If you like sitting on the porch with a good friend and listening to the events of their day over a glass of iced tea, then this book will suit you. It's about being in the company of quality people, and knowing that whatever they say will be worth the time to listen.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 29, 1999
Format: Paperback
Bailey White's latest is a masterful recreation of the people and places that make up the North Florida, South Georgia region. Her sense of place is sure and strong and her words took me right back to places I have known and loved. Sure, not much happens in the book, but the people were mostly real for me and I empathized with their frailties and shortcomings in their attempts to care about each other. I found the book relaxing and evocative of another way of life.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Sally J. Nottage on March 27, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Characters that gently flow with each changing of the season. There was a soothing quality to the pace of the story that the reader absorbs, especially from the elderly characters. Scenes are centered around the cycle of nature so anyone who has gardened, lived on a farm or had a parent to care for, will especially appreciate the manner in which life and people are shown. I closed the book gently with a sigh and wanted more.
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful By BEN RILEY on October 18, 2005
Format: Paperback
I realize I'm coming to the game late, since this book has already had 61 reviews over the past 5 years with an average rating of 3 stars, but I just can't resist sharing my disappointment with this "novel." Having been a long-time fan of Bailey White's picturesque vignettes on NPR and in her story collections (Mama Makes Up Her Mind and Sleeping at the Starlite Motel), I was delighted to come across a paperback copy of this book at a local thrift store for $1.00. In retrospect, I fear that I overspent. The publisher's use of the word "novel" is misleading in the extreme, for this book is simply a collection of scenes of southern life held together loosely by a cast of mostly forgettable characters (thus the critical need for the list of characters at the front of the book - you'll need it!). While it is true that each of our lives may be filled with a variety of odd or dysfunctional family, friends, and acquaintances exactly like those in this book, to build a book around such characters requires more than a simple narrative description of their quirks to hold a reader's attention for 200+ pages. As some other reviewers have noted, the book is not without its moments, e.g., a couple of old ladies helping a widow friend spread her long dead husband's cremated ashes; a man's obsessive passion for collecting vintage electric fans; a woman's personal conviction that aliens are monitoring our every move; the city folks who move to the country for peace and quiet, only to find themselves completely out of their element. Each might have made a delightful literary sketch in and of itself, but stringing them together in a vaguely chronological order and calling the results a Novel, is quite unfair to both the reader and Ms White, the writer.Read more ›
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Anne Parker on March 25, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When I began the audio edition of this book, I was taken aback by Bailey White's whispery, "old lady" voice, which still surprises me. But in short order it became clear that her voice and her fictional world blended perfectly and only added to the beauty of the tale. I may, of course, as a long-time resident of Tallahassee, FL, be biased, but I was charmed by the eccentric backwoodsiness of the book's characters. We come to know the bird artist who throws out her possessions as an inspiration to her painting; the fan-man, to whom a 1910 GE electric fan represents perfection; the typographer, who values the juxtaposition of letters more than his wife; Roger, the peanut expert whose portrait between two peanut plants is a recurring theme in the book; and of course the several charming old ladies whose knowledge of south Georgia flora and fauna is encyclopedic. But none of these brief descriptions really give the rich, delicious flavor of the world in which all these folk live. Any one of these characters would enrich an ordinary book. To find them all in one place is extraordinary.

This slim volume has been criticized for lack of plot, but I think the plot is rich and deep. It is not, however, a dramatic, fast-paced, "page turner" type plot. Rather, we are given a glimpse into one year in the life of an extraordinary community. When the year is ended, life in the community goes on, no better and no worse than before, but unfortunately, without an audience to drink it in.
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