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The Three Miss Margarets: A Novel Hardcover – April 1, 2003

4.5 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews
Book 1 of 2 in the Miss Margarets Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Three elderly white Georgia women, all named Margaret, share a deep friendship and a dark secret in this winning debut by actress and television writer Shaffer. For reasons not entirely clear even to her, Laurel Selene McCready has inherited her mother's grudge against "the three Miss Margarets," upstanding icons in rural Charles Valley. Returning home drunk late one night, she spies the three ladies congregating unaccountably in a deserted cabin. The body of Vashti Johnson, a renowned African-American geneticist who had returned to Charles Valley to visit her mother, is soon discovered in the cabin, prompting an investigation by the police, as well as by Laurel Selene and her new boyfriend Josh, a journalist who's writing a book about Vashti. As the three Miss Margarets struggle with how much to reveal about Vashti's life and death, they also reflect on their own longtime intimacy and on the race hatred in their community that led, decades ago, to a series of ghastly crimes. Shaffer's achievement is making each Miss Margaret a complex character with a fiercely guarded interior life. She doesn't belabor the social forces that defined the lives of these doyennes; instead, she gradually reveals Dr. Maggie Harris's lesbian love life, Margaret (Li'l Bit) Hanning's decadelong affair with a redneck gardener and Peggy Garrison's embattled domestic arrangement. Sometimes Shaffer leans too much on heavy-handed foreshadowing, and the secondary characters are thin, especially Laurel Selene and Josh. Yet the three Miss Margarets are wholly imagined, rich creations whose reticence speaks volumes about their time and place.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Thirty years ago, the leading ladies of Charles Valley, GA, did something terribly wrong for a very good reason. Now their secret is about to pop out.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (April 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 037550852X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375508523
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,705,966 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I started this book on the recommendation of a friend and couldn't put it down once I started. The titular Three Miss Margarets are fascinating women, described in beautiful detail by Louise Shaffer. There is a good old-fashioned mystery behind the secret the three women share, but I read the book not just to find out what they were hiding but to get to know them better. And I did. Some moments in their lives broke my heart, some ticked me off. But I always felt. It's a wonderful writer who can not just pique your curiosity but move you emotionally, and Louise Shaffer does just that. I've passed this book along to a number of friends and family members who have all shared the same opinion.
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By A Customer on April 13, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Not often am I moved to write a review of a book, even though I read constantly, but there was no question I had to write in for "The Three Miss Margarets." This book is outstanding in every way: the quality of writing, the story, the characters. Never has a story so well portrayed the strength and character of the women of the south. They have to make this into a movie, it is THAT good.
I certainly hope that Ms. Shaffer writes more like this one!
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By A Customer on September 1, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The Three Miss Margarets is an outstanding novel that keeps the reader turning pages into the night. While it could be called Southern gothic, it has a different plot twist that is totally unexpected. The characters are marvelous--surely they live just down the street; we know them all. The writing is crisp and clear, the dialogue and settings realistic, and the cliff hangers at the end of each chapter make it difficult to put the book down. I enjoyed this novel more than any I have read all summer--and I read a lot. Great job. I hope we hear more from Louise Shaffer.
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Format: Hardcover
By the end of Louise Shaffer's dazzling debut Southern-gothic novel, The Three Miss Margarets, one heartbreaking mystery is solved and another, far more puzzling one is presented: Where in tarnation has the author been until now? Yep, she's that good. Not only do the steel magnolias of the title form a ya-ya sisterhood whose secrets are truly divine, but in spinning a yarn that spans three generations, Shaffer creates an instant classic that is sure to be revered for at least as many decades. Take the book to the beach and dive right in.
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Format: Hardcover
Three old women, pillars of their community and intimate friends, bear the burden of a tormented past and a decision which haunts not only their relationship with each other but their capacity to face themselves. As Miss Peggy, Dr. Maggie and Li'l Bit wrestle with their consciences -- struggling to define the elusive ideas of justice, obligation and self-respect -- they invite the reader into their world, a place where race, sex and social class define life's possibilities and inform self-definition. Louise Shaffer's enthralling "The Three Miss Margarets" crackles with dramatic tension and vaults the reader in an engrossing saga of personal endurance, private tenacity and redemptive sacrifice. The novel's pace is fast, but not so fast as to compromise Shaffer's exeptional talent in depicting the human heart in conflict with itself and how that heart learns to heal itself despite and because of friends, history and disappointment.
Each of the five women who comprise the core of "Three" bears the scars of loss and heartbreak. The talented Dr. Maggie forsakes her sexuality to return to her childhood community; doll-like, Maggie's iron-bound will permits her to substitute service for personal joy and fulfillment. Li'l Bit, gigantic and homely, accepts her status of town pariah but compensates with insight, tolerance and an abiding passion for natural beauty. When Li'l Bit initially interviews for a position with Dr. Maggie, Li'l summarizes her self-image: "I'm not pretty...don't tell me I'm handsome in my own way. I can look in a mirror. I know what I see." Li'l also senses Maggie's differences when she tells the doctor that "being important...useful" is "the standard way for people like us."
This sense of singularity consumes the third member of this unusual friendship circle.
Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
Old Southern reticence is penetrated and old Southern secrets are revealed in dribs and drabs as Laurel and boyfriend Josh struggle to make sense of what Maggie, Peggy, and Margaret (the 3 Margarets of the title) will and won't reveal about their own pasts as well as that of their town. It all starts when Laurel spies the three old ladies huddling in a 'deserted cabin' and then later the body of a famous African-American geneticist is discovered in the cabin. Dum-de-dum-dum.
It's great.
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Format: Hardcover
I really liked the characterizations in TTMM. The author has a handle on fleshing out the population of her little southern town. She also has a good sense of interesting dialogue and plot. So many of the novels that I've read lately are either one or the other, and it was nice to get more than one facet in this book.

I would have given this book 4 stars had it not been for the ending. I was expecting more of a dirty-little-secret kind of revelation, but that's not what I got. In fact, it seems like the story was leading up to something really wham-bang, but the payoff was lacking.

Overall it was a good novel and Shaffer is a real talent.
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