Books by Rebecca T. Godwin

KEEPER OF THE HOUSE by Rebecca T. Godwin
Released: Oct. 1, 1994

An impressive, contemplative, and introspective second novel by the author of Private Parts (1992). As the Great Depression dawns, Minyon Manigault, a poor, black 14-year-old, is given by her ailing grandmother to Ariadne Fleming (Mizz Addie), the elegant white madam of a whorehouse in Jamestown, S.C.—a world away, though it's only a few dusty hours by car from Minyon's home in Little Town. At first, Minyon feels like misfit: The youngest inhabitant of the house, and one of a few blacks, she is put to work as the cleaning girl. While she scrubs each crystal of the great chandelier, polishes the wooden table, dusts the Chinese vases, and changes the sheets between each gentleman's visit, she listens to ambitious Mizz Addie's game plan for turning Hazelhedge into the finest sporting house in the nation, picking up the madam's honest values (discretion and respectability) and her tips for running a sturdy business (keep things clean and proper; lay the groundwork). She hears the stories of the constant stream of ``hoes'' who flow through the house: families left behind on farms, abortions, dreams of rescue by a good man, plots, deaths. Minyon's tasks increase until she is running the show as Mizz Addie's trusted right-hand woman. She struggles to respect herself, not quite believing that whorehouse management should be her lot, until she realizes that identity is not defined solely by a person's job and that there can be beauty, dignity, and friendship in unexpected places. Hazelhedge is like a bottled miniature of the outside world, and Godwin paints it well, picking up nuances in speech and movement that lend depth to an already vivid portrait. A strong, clear story—food for thought. Read full book review >
PRIVATE PARTS by Rebecca T. Godwin
Released: May 1, 1992

The achievement in Godwin's first novel lies in the appealing voice of her main character Mattie, who rambles through 20-plus years of her life in a small southern town—from brief courtship through long marriage and eventual separation. Married on impulse as a teenager to Jimmy Lee Turner, Mattie never quite understands why. She feels slighted by her in-laws and abandoned by her mother, who remarries and moves away shortly after Mattie's father dies. (It'll be 20 years before they see each other again.) Mattie's fantasy of a married life with a house full of babies evaporates when she miscarries her first pregnancy and learns she will never have another. She carries on, however, seemingly nonplussed. She's the good wife, even though she's never been thrilled by Jimmy Lee's lovemaking; the good daughter in-law; the good neighbor. Eventually Mattie has a hysterectomy; her in- laws die; she reunites with her mother; then hurricane Dion destroys her mother-in-law's home. This last incident seems to be the catalyst for her separation from Jimmy Lee, though by this point we're not sure why. Mattie's voice is a rather isolated one, her story curiously passive. Unfortunately, the novel suffers from the obvious pitfall of first-person narration: the canvas never opens up. Ultimately, it cries out for dramatic incident to give Mattie a real life. Read full book review >