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This One and Magic Life: A Novel of a Southern Family Hardcover – September 7, 1999

4.6 out of 5 stars 67 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Award-winning author of the Southern Sisters Mysteries (Murder Shoots the Bull, etc.) and former Alabama State Poet, George proves she can smoothly shift genres in this silky and passionate literary novel. Sullivan family members are returning to their sleepy Harlow, Ala., hometown to mourn the death of 58-year-old Artie (Artemis) Sullivan, a spunky and talented painter. Her twin brother, Donnie (Adonis), and younger sibling, Hektor, along with Donnie's wife, Mariel, and their daughter, Dolly, learn more than they expected. Artie's death has her loved ones ransacking their memories to hold the truths, half-truths and outright lies of their lives up to the light. Upset by Artie's wish to be cremated, Mariel produces a fake funeral to keep up appearances, while she examines her jealousy of Artie's intense bond with Donnie and Dolly. Donnie and Hektor unearth painful memories about their parents' early deaths and their mother's mental instability, seductive beauty and affair with neighbor Zeke Pardue. They also reveal a dark, decades-old family secret that only Artie's death could bring to the surface. The narrative can be confusing as it haphazardly switches points of view: some chapters are in the third person, others are written in the voices of various characters. But perhaps the polyvocal approach is an adequate device to explain the myriad entanglements and reveal the harbored secrets of this family. Sad moments include a father who accidentally kills his baby by leaving her out in the hot sun while he passes out drunk; a more subtle passage features Artemis making love with her cousin Bo. Drawing on her poetic roots, George's assured, soft Southern prose is full of symbolism and lyrical phrases, with much stargazing, Greek mythology and rising and setting suns to infuse the homey story with a mystical aura. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Perhaps best known for her sweetly Southern murder mysteries, the "Southern Sisters" series, George steps out of the role that brought her an Agatha Award for Murder on a Girls' Night Out to give us the sights, sounds, and memories of coastal Alabama. With her trademark witty dialog and smart characters, George presents the story of the Sullivan family. The reader will join other "outsiders" looking in on the very close and ultimately dangerous relationships between parents Thomas and Sarah and twin brother and sister Donnie and Artie (originally named Adonis and Artemis by their mythologically inclined father). The family has gathered to say goodbye to the dying Artie, beloved artist and genteel soul. Through the grief and humor converge stories of other members of the Sullivan family, including Hektor, Dolly, and Mariel. This poignant and bittersweet novel is a pleasure to read and shows great promise from an already proven writer. Fans of "Southern Sisters" will not be disappointed, and others who stumble upon this novel will want to discover all of George's works.
-AShannon Haddock, Bellsouth Corporate Lib. & Business Research Ctr., Birmingham, AL
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; 1st edition (September 7, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380975998
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380975990
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 5.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #135,318 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Anne was a dear personal friend. She sent this book to me shortly before her death. She told me that she felt that it was her best work and referred to it as her book about forgiveness. It has been a very long time since a book has moved me so deeply. I recommend it highly. Don't expect to find the wonderful, silly Southern Sisters anywhere in these pages. DO expect to find grace in all its guises-- as beauty, as elegance and, yes, Anne, as forgiveness and redemption. It grieves me that we lost this magnificent writer before she could write more books like this one. DO read her poetry, as well.
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Format: Hardcover
THIS ONE AND MAGIC BOOK
Anne George, who has entertained a wide and appreciative audience with her Southern Sisters mysteries, goes beyond a merely pleasant diversion in this moving story of a troubled Southern family. Before writing the Southern Sisters, George had established her reputation as a very fine poet. Her poetical skills are abundantly evident in this book's many lyrical passages. For example, Chapter Four, "Almond Pie" (culinary poetry in itself!) begins with these words: "The Deep South is still a mystery. It is even a mystery to those who live there. Live oaks trailing Spanish moss whisper and move around during the night. Sometimes they move next door. A mystery. But that's the way things are." That short chapter ends with a man turning cartwheels down the beach: "And that is what Sarah will remember most about this day, the cartwheels and a boat with a vivid blue sail that draws a line across the horizon." Despite the almost visceral impact of its imagery, however, THIS ONE AND MAGIC LIFE is not, as Southern Sister Mary Alice might say, at all "hi-faluting." Even in its most lyrical passages, the story remains accessible, its people tied to the earth. Its unique yet universal characters are gradually revealed, much as the individual pieces of a jigsaw puzzle become a recognizable picture. George's use of the present tense and her shifting of time and point of view, while never obtrusive,help her to tell an engrossing tale that no single chronological "once upon a time" could begin to convey. Yes, George says, life is a mystery; but at times the curtain is drawn back, and scattered images of what has been come together to show us what is, might have been and perhaps, what will be, in "this one and magic life." I didn't want this book to end, and I shall certainly read it again. It is one "beach novel" that is also a real "keeper."
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Format: Paperback
I had read all of Anne George's Southern Sister mysteries, so was anxious to read "This One and Magic Life". She didn't disappoint me -- I truly loved this book. How sad it is that we will no longer be able to enjoy any of Anne George's books -- she was a wonderful writer!
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Format: Paperback
I have read all of Anne George's "Sister" mysteries and loved them all. When I discovered this book, I could not wait to read it. She did not disappoint me. I was touched by the characters and transported to Harlow, Alabama by Miss George's words. While "This One and Magic Life" is very different from the sister mysteries, you will find it to be a delightful read. Miss George will be sorely missed by this fan as will her lovable characters.
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Format: Hardcover
Readers of This One and Magic Life are in for a rare treat-a trip inside the hearts and minds of the members of a true Southern family. Ms. George manages to endear us to her characters even while exposing their weaknesses, insecurities, and guilt. When the tears began to flow after the first two pages of the book, I knew this was no ordinary novel. The beauty of the words, the depth of the characters, and the strong sense of place all combine to form an unforgettable experience in which we all recognize parts of ourselves and our own family members. Much as the live oak trees in Harlow, the Sullivan family stands tall even while shrouded in the Spanish moss of mystery, hate, sadness, and yet beauty. This family illustrates well how much the past is a part of us, and how much we love this place. Our roots are planted deeply in this soil, and just as the Spanish moss, many of us could not grow north of Montgomery, Alabama. This book has something for everyone, male or female, young or old. It is one that I will reread many times. The warm breezes and starry nights of the Gulf Coast beckon. On every page, I was there, and it touched my heart.
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Format: Hardcover
I first became familiar with Anne's work in her poetry. For those who love her books; seek out her poetry, too. It is filled with the magic of "common" things made special.
"Magic Life" is her poetry and her prose bound together. She uses the quintessential Southern gathering,the death and funeral of a relative, as her backdrop. She then opens the memories and lives of the participants, showing how past and present are bound,inextricably,together.
The characters are familiar people to many of us, especially those of us who are Southerners. We almost all have relatives that mirror the attractive as well as the unattractive attributes of the people we meet at family's gathering after Artie's Death.
I have yet to read a review that mentions what rang as such a powerful theme to me: the continuity of souls... a theme of rebirth. Anne has subtly interwoven the idea of renewal into the story of a funeral.
She has a genius for such things.
Readers are lucky to have the fun of her wit and sense of hilarity in the Southern Sisters novels and the deep beauty her soul in "Magic Life."
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