The Trouble with Grits

By Phyllis Pittman

They say you can never go back, but when Evangeline Tanner rediscovers her life as stuffed into a 40-oz. Whitman Sampler candy box, she does exactly that.  The box—the spoils of war from when poor unsuspecting Alton Freeman attempted to propose to her cousin Caroline using chocolate in lieu of a diamond—had become the receptacle of odd mementoes of important people and events in her life.  Upon finding the box stashed in the corner of her old closet when visiting her South Mississippi childhood home, Evangeline “Vangie”pulls out memories, randomly, and goes right back to the day they happened and carries readers along with her.  We watch as a free-spirited, free thinking young girl kicks against the goads of culture, religion, and expectation, trying to find who she is outside of the perception of others.  Along the way we live in her community, wake up with her relatives, encounter the prejudice, suffer the pain, and laugh at the absurdities of a life lived with wonder, hope, a bit of despair, and a finely honed sense of romance and drama.

In traveling the pathways of her memories, we learn life lessons and maybe think a little deeper, all while we peer in the windows of an atypical—yet everyday—Southern family as they go about the business of living, dying, eating, laughing, and loving.

Vangie struggles to break out of the confines of “normal” to find the Why.  Why believe Jesus was a Baptist like Aunt Lavinia says?  Why are girls just expected to get married and can tomatoes? Why did they put grape leaves on the statues of naked men she saw in the World Book Encyclopedia and make an innocent girl dread her wedding night?

She finds her answers and makes her own path, but the journey and the destination are uniquely her own.