The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove by Susan Gregg Gilmore
Published by Crown, an imprint of Random House
Although blessed with a name that had been passed down to the first daughter of the eldest son in the Grove family for generations, Bezellia is nothing if not her own person. The Groves have long been one of the first families of Nashville, but now in the 1960s they no longer have the financial resources they did once. Now, they are just a name, and one dealing with ever more tarnishing influences. Bezellia’s doctor father is always at the hospital or with another woman, and her mother is drowning in a sea of gin. Amidst this chaos, Bezellia is trying to learn who she is and, at the same time, discovering first love with the son of her family’s African-American driver and handyman. In the South. In the 1960s.
I am somewhat in awe of what Gilmore accomplished in “The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove.” Somehow she managed to have a strong female lead who didn’t pull punches and became involved in inter-class and interracial relationships (sometimes all at the same time), a heroine who discovered Betty Friedan and the lure of feminism at college, a young woman who is capable of holding together a family wracked by guilt and alcoholism, and yet she did not let her book get pulled into a dark and depressing morass of politics and family drama. Personally I might have liked a slightly heavier tome, but I admire the balance Gilmore was able to strike so successfully, and think that “The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove” will appeal to a wide range of people.
“The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove” is an engaging coming-of-age story and one that I can recommend.
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