Same sweet southerners

Published 11:29 am Saturday, February 28, 2009

Listening to Cassandra King speak at Pelham Public Library on a recent, crisp Sunday afternoon was a delight.

As she spoke about being classified as a Southern writer and the public’s general fascination with Southern writers, King’s humor captivated her audience. While it’s hard to describe what excites readers’ imaginations when it comes to Southern authors, King noted no one ever says, “I can’t wait to read those Northwestern writers.”

King, who earned two degrees from and taught at the University of Montevallo, has mastered bringing the unique charm of the small southern town to life in her novels. I’ve been reading her bestseller The Sunday Wife and thinking about what makes King’s storyline and characters so compelling — and so completely southern.

Most of King’s work examines the dynamics of small towns and the relationships that seem to take on an intimacy and fierceness unique to women friends. Perhaps that intimacy is what makes even southerners love authentic Southern writing like Cassandra King’s novels.

From my view, at the back of the library, I noticed almost everyone had come with a friend. The reading group from the library was sitting together, along with some of the seniors who spend lots of time together at the senior center. Friends of mine from a Christian writers’ group came in, and many of King’s oldest friends and former colleagues were in attendance. The friends laughed at one another’s questions, teased one another with their remarks, and appreciated one another with nods of agreement.

That’s the secret to the sensuousness of southern literature. We find friendships in these books that are just as personal as our own friendships. We find friends who will come over and take care of you when you’re sick, call your husband and ask him what fool thing he’s done if you’re crying for no reason, and friends who will buy you a book and stand in line to get it autographed just because you’ll love it. Most of all, we find friends that will hang with you through the nitty, gritty of life no matter how nitty and gritty life gets.

Perhaps we love Cassandra King’s fiction because, like our very best friends, King’s characters speak the truth passionately, and conquer problems together insuring that even in her darkest moments, a true friend is never alone.