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 >