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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Eudora Welty : Complete Novels: The Robber Bridegroom, Delta Wedding, The Ponder Heart, Losing Battles, The Optimist's Daughter (Library of America) » User review

A tersely written novel whose value rises to the occasion once the book is fully read and absorbed.

  • May 6, 2013
  • by
Rating:
+5
The Optimist's Daughter was a subtle read. Yet, Welty expertly conveys the colorful nuances of New Orleans and Mississippi culture, especially Mardi Gras, the assorted southern mansions, a clownishly outfitted cat, the neighborhood as well as their compassionate yet busybody endless curiosity of their meddling behavior. That was just a small component of the novel. She really captures the essence of small town Mayberry life. It's sweet but also rather suffocating without diminishing the characters in the novel. It's like you'd want to stay there for five or ten minutes and then leave.

What I found to be really true, however, was the leaving of small town life with all the attachments that belong to it and then suddenly coming back to it, and that was the case of Laurel Hand, a quiet yet strong-willed woman who returns home from Chicago. She has come back to care for her ailing father-Judge Clint McKelva, who is highly revered for his sound judicial wisdom and the help he has given to his neighbors. Upon coming back to Mount Salus, Mississippi, Laurel-modern and dignified-must deal with her annoying and shrewish stepmother who weaseled herself into the judge's life. Money is always a motive. Laurel composes herself, meets with the community and waits the bitter wait of her beloved father's demise. Does it immediately happen? Do things go sour for the money hungry Fay McKelva, who nobody in the community likes? You'll just have to read.

When it is time for Fay and Laurel and all the neighbors to retreat back to normal life, because all seems well, supposedly, there is no love lost, especially with Fay. Let's just say that her annoying character rhythms with the word itch. In the end, when good or bad happens, people must always retreat back to the normal routines of day-to-day living, and that is no different for Laurel; she is a designer of some sort and has her own life. Yet, all the old biddies of the neighborhood want her to stay on, for she would be a fantastic asset to the community. However, that can't be, and she makes it quite clear. Just because she is leaving Mount Salus, she is not leaving its essence, the memories. Just as when a human passes on, so too is it the same with our old childhood homes and friends. More often-than-not, we carry those wonderful memories with us when we are far away. Those memories take us back to the epicenter of what we most long for.

The Optimist's Daughter was a really decent read with a simple yet potent message. It was a short and sad book yet strangely affirming-and only 180 pages-but it was worthy of its 1972 Pulitzer Prize win. I think readers will enjoy this book.
A tersely written novel whose value rises to the occasion once the book is fully read and absorbed.

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More Eudora Welty : Complete Novels... reviews
review by . December 20, 2006
Each new volume from The Library of America, the non-profit publisher that has become the de facto literary hall of fame, is a cause for celebration. Its goal of preserving in an enduring format the best fiction and non-fiction is a significant bulwark against the encroaching tides of cultural relativism that attempts to render any value judgments meaningless, as well as a consumer society that insists that if it ain't new, it ain't good.    In the case of Eudora Welty, we're …
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This Library of America volume gathers all the long fiction published by the beloved Mississippi writer Eudora Welty. Throughout her long and storied career, Welty has been most famous, perhaps, for her short stories. But it's in her novels that she attempted some of her most ambitious and powerful creations: the idiosyncratic fable that isThe Robber Bridegroom, drawing on legends, local history, folktale, and myth; the underrated, wickedly funny short novelThe Ponder Heart; andLosing Battles, a familial epic 15 years in the making and begun in bits and pieces while Welty cared for her sick mother. In a strange inversion of the author's usual career trajectory, Welty's only attempt at aroman à clefcame late in life, with thePulitzer Prize-winningThe Optimist's Daughter, the quiet, moving, largely autobiographical story of a woman coming to grips with her father's death. The novels alone earn Welty a place as one of the finest writers our century has produced; taken together with the Library of America companion volume,Stories, Essays, & Memoir, it's a body of work that William Maxwell calls "beyond human power of praising." Welty rarely strayed for long from the place of her birth, but her fiction is as capacious as the human heart itself. Like Faulkner, she has taken her own corner of Mississippi and made it encompass the world.
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ISBN-10: 188301154X
ISBN-13: 978-1883011543
Author: Eudora Welty
Publisher: Library of America

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