- Mass Market Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Ballantine Books (August 13, 1989)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 034536208X
- ISBN-13: 978-0345362087
- Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.9 x 6.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (155 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,854,600 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Fair and Tender Ladies Mass Market Paperback – August 13, 1989
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From Publishers Weekly
Readers will be thoroughly captivated by Ivy Rowe, the narrator of this epistolary novel, and will come to the end of her story with a pang of regret. Smith ( Oral History , Family Linen ) has produced her best work here, creating a fully rounded heroine and other vivid characters who inhabit Virginia's Appalachia region. The letters begin around the turn of the century when Ivy is a child living with eight siblings on the family farm on Blue Star Mountain. Written with quaint misspellings and in the vernacular of Southern speech, the missives reflect the harsh poverty of farm life, as well as the simple beauties of the land: "This is the taste of spring," her father tells Ivy, and she never forgets it, even when the family must move to the boom town of Majestic after her father's death. Ivy's talent as a budding writer is recognized early on, but just as she is about to realize her dream of going North to school, she is betrayed by her passionate nature. Though pregnant and "ruint," she marries a childhood friend who takes her back to the family homestead, where she bears several children and endures the endless toil of a farmer's wife. Just when life seems drearily predictable, she succumbs in middle age to an irresistible passion that brings tragic consequences. Ivy is a woman of bewitching appeal and endearing faults: bright, with a poet's eye and soul; spunky, impetuous, sensual and proud. Following her heroine over seven decades, Smith conveys the changing conditions of life in Appalachia, during which time, as Ivy laments, "everybody has took everything out of herefirst the trees, then the coal, then the children." In the old tradition of oral storytelling, Smith has fashioned a dramatic, magical, poignantly true-to-life tale. Literary Guild selection.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From School Library Journal
YA-- Ivy Rowe, Virginia mountain girl, then mother, wife, and finally, "Mamaw," writes letters "to hold on to what is passing." Her story tumbles out in words that are colloquial and sometimes misspelled as she pens letters to her family and friends throughout her long life. Although her attendance at school is sparse, the teachers encourage her, believing that she is exceptionally gifted in language. As a teenager, she thinks that she does not want to have children "as they will brake your hart." But have them she does, a process which makes her "bones screech," but she comes to see that "children swell up your heart." She learns the difference between lust, "a fiery hand in the vitals" (as in Jane Eyre, a book to which she often refers), and love, which she finds with her husband Oakley. Readers will savor many passages of this novel. On the electrification of Bethel Mountain ("a lovely lady's necklace laid out"), or the invention of birth control pills ("the greatest thing since drip dry"), and many other matters, Ivy writes with a verve and immediacy which prove that her creator, Lee Smith, is a storyteller supreme.
- Keddy Outlaw, Harris County Public Library, Houston
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Rich with loving detail, philosophy, and the indications of the passing of time not only for the protagonist but also for her community and the country itself, it'll make you laugh and cry and sigh.
Read it, if you haven't already!
Ivy's life is one of abject poverty and hardship. Most of her siblings dies young. Her father is disabled through the majority of the book, Her mother is a tormented and exploited soul. Ivy has several chances to escape all this but the pull of place and family keeps her firmly entrenched where she is.
This out to be a thoroughly depressing book--instead it is a truly inspiring book. For, though objectively a person with virtually nothing, Ivy sees herself as uniquely blessed. The life force that carries her into old age is one that sees the glass perpetually as half full--her hardships are, to her eyes, less threatening and frightening than those she sees around her. She is essentially saved several times by people she dos not know or whom she has previously rejected. Though she is often exploited she does not allow those experiences to harden her heart.
This is not to say Ivy is soft or naive. She merely sees hard times as the burden of life and chooses to write her letters to make sense of it all where she can and merely record it if she can't.
I would have thought the letter format would wear after a while. It did not. It in fact created a sense of intimacy that enhanced the reading experience.
All in all, this is one of the best books I read in years. I was thoroughly enchanted throughout. I can only rejoice in the large body of work that lee Smith has for me to work through. If her other efforts are even a fraction as good as this book, I have a lot of great reading ahead of me.