"Georgia Bottoms" by Mark Childress: Book Review

"Georgia Bottoms" by Mark Childress
Little, Brown, 278 pp., $24.99
Reviewed by David Marshall James

She's totin' more secrets than the law should allow, and bearin' burdens that would lead lesser souls to seek prescriptions for nerve "meds" and brown bags full of soothing libations.

Still and all, Miss Georgia Bottoms can whip out a pan of homemade biscuits or scrub a room into shape quicker than a dozen Navy midshipmen.

Indeed, her life is ordered meticulously around a done-losin'-her-marbles Momma and a nothin'-but-trouble-causin' younger borther who reside in a small-town Alabama house that stands as a mocking reminder of the Bottoms family's diminished fortune.

In another day and time, all that would have been expected of Georgia would have been to: 1) Smile and look her naturally beautiful, always well-turned-out self (no problem); 2) Marry well (no problem, given no. 1); and 3) Set up her own gracious household (no problem, given her domestic capabilities).

Georgia has been born too late for her own good.

She ought to have gone up to Bama or Auburn from her hometown of Six Mile, and married the first pre-med major or rich daddy's boy who tried to slip a hand down her Maidenform. Nevertheless, Georgia took a major detour before such as that could transpire.

If things had been different, as well they could have, she wouldn't have to indulge in some age-old, yet lucrative practices.

Yes, those would include retail mark-up and ... well, Tennessee Williams would have termed them "gentlemen callers." Georgia's prices are negotiable: pay as you can. Better yet, pay as you're pleased.

Author Mark Childress hails from the literary mecca of Monroeville, Alabama, still home to Harper Lee and onetime refuge of the young Truman Capote. Childress-- best known for his novel/movie "Crazy in Alabama"-- has created a thoroughly lovable character in Georgia. No question why those gentlemen come a-callin'.

During the course of the novel, Georgia's world is shaken up as if by a giant cosmic foot kicking the anthill of humanity. She's been spinning plates, metaphorically speaking, like a practiced vaudevillian. Just about everything in Georgia's precariously balanced world is compartmentalized.

One of her paramours (goaded by a jealous wife) is about to lose it. Georgia can manage that. But, then this follows that, and something else follows that. Georgia has only so many fingers and toes to keep all her plates spinning.

The humor and heart in Childress's novel sparkle like one of Georgia's freshly polished floors. The author captures many of his characters on a par with Eudora Welty's in "The Optimist's Daughter" and "The Petrified Man. Delicious ironic twists and descriptive passages recall such Capote short stories as "Children on Their Birthdays" and "The Thanksgiving Visitor."

Above all, Georgia reigns supreme. Moreover, she deserves a return engagement. "Louisiana Georgia," perhaps.

* * *