SASSAFRAS by Mary Vann Hunter


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A regional chronicle which begins with one of those feisty, bumptious Southern childhoods and ends with a feminist yell. Beatrice Louise (""Batty"") Attwood grows up in a small rural town in South Carolina surely loved by parents, grandparents (grandpa makes and shares rabbit-tobacco cigarettes), and bike-riding friend Peggy Sue. But ideas of dutiful behavior and the double-standard are smothering Batty's female spirit: she isn't allowed to see a hog killing or play with colored children (""It just isn't done"") or spill the beans about some dirty stuff she does with a schoolmate. And in adolescence--Batty's dress is criticized at Bible Assembly for being too tempting. As for boys, it's no-no-no (Gus is too tame anyway), but ""Plum"" Bradley is brilliant and seems right and they're married before Batty finishes college. A mistake, of course. Plum doesn't give a fig for Batty's dreams of an acting career, and furthermore his loving is bimbam blah. However, Daddy orders Batty not to divorce (""If you want to be happy, just start thinking about making Plum happy""). So it will be some time before Batty slips the leash, though there is a brief encounter with Gus (""She'd been cheated. . . missed all those opportunities for hot satisfying sex""). And at last, in New York, there's Ben, instructor at Batty's time-wasting art courses. Hello: Liberation and Controlling Your Own Life. Goodbye, Plum. Hunter's childhood scenes have the appeal of fresh recall, but as the message rumbles in the background, some characters--particularly Hum--begin to dim; and the final thunderation/liberation is too much of a fabulous flight. A bit driven--like similar consciousness-raisers--but it does have its lively moments.

Pub Date: April 15th, 1980
Publisher: New American Library