PLANT LIFE by Pamela Duncan


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The travails and triumphs of rural southern women.

Russell, North Carolina, is the kind of small town that never changes—but Laurel Granger sure has. She isn’t sure how to tell her family that she split up with husband Scott in Las Vegas, or that she may not even want to stick around after Christmas. Truth is, she has no choice but to stay and find a job at the mill, like her mother, Pansy, and all her mother’s old friends: Idalene, Maxanne, Percilla, and Lottie May. Laurel isn’t exactly thrilled to be right back where she started from, although everyone seems to love her just the same. She ruminates over her marriage—how could Scott dump her for a stupid bleached blond named DeeDee?—and seeks answers in the past. Fortunately, no yearbook, no church program, no nothing is ever thrown away in Russell, and all are scrutinized in turn, their emotional charge duly noted. Laurel does a little snooping and discovers to her surprise that her mother, a talented artist, had planned to go to college, though she never mentioned it. A little more digging reveals that Maw Bert, Pansy’s mother, kept her at home until she married, even burning all of Pansy’s paintings. Laurel is appalled. Is she doomed to see her ambitions, her education, go up in smoke as well? Just what it is about this small town that keeps people here for generations? Alternate points of view are skillfully introduced as each of the five friends tells her story—as does Maw Bert, the redoubtable matriarch, who had her reasons for doing what she did. Laurel is thrilled to find that her mother’s artwork wasn’t destroyed after all, still glowing brightly despite the years of concealment under family photos in old frames.

Lovingly drawn, thoughtful characterization holds up despite the endless inventory of minutiae. A worthy second outing by the author of Moon Women (2001), though it has only the ghost of a plot.

Pub Date: April 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-385-33523-7
Page count: 323pp
Publisher: Delacorte
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2003


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