In My Mother's House

I hold writers with roots in Mississippi to the same standards as the rest of the world – or maybe higher like MY children or MY students. Therefore, I was really glad to see that Margaret McMullan got her skillet right in her book In My Mother’s House. “Charlie Mae was probably in the kitchen, making fried apple pies in a skillet that she never washed but wiped clean.” You might remember that how to clean a black skillet was a sore spot on my otherwise positive review of Whistling Past the Graveyard. I expected accuracy from Margaret as well as good writing since I had enjoyed her How I Found the Strong when it first came out in 2004.

My expectations were different from those reported in the Evansville Living article about her that I found on the Internet. After her older sister gave a rousing speech in her campaign for school president, Margaret’s junior high teacher told her she would never write as well as her older sister. Little did she know that Margaret had written the speech. [Shame! Shame! Shame! on the teacher]

I was looking for a good book for a birthday present for my daughter-in-law who has adapted well to being in the strange Butler family. At her first Christmas with us, we were rolling merrily along in our usual manner with present distribution. Well into the celebration, she suddenly burst out, “Finally, a present that is not a book!”

I asked, “Don’t you read books?”

Steph said, “Evidently not as much as this family.”

Let me say that Steph really is a voracious reader – just of a different variety. She leads the pack in reading and producing the contents of cookbooks, and I have given her many. However, I thought it was time for a change of pace with a well-written good story.

In My Mother’s House qualifies as the narration switches back and forth from mother to daughter. The mother [Genevieve or Jenny] seeks to forget and keep silent about the dark days of World War II Vienna while the daughter [Elizabeth] wants to know her roots. Jenny wants to leave her faith, her Jewishness, behind while Elizabeth moves back toward it as she dates a Jewish man. Woven through this narrative are the spoons from the family silver that arrive along with notes from Elizabeth’s great-grandmother, tying the generations one to the other.

I liked the scene where Margaret quotes Elie Wiesel – “Elie Wiesel wrote that God is in exile – He’s everywhere so He’s never at home.” The quote brings Elizabeth comfort that her great-grandmother, displaced from her homeland has not been alone.

This is a story of finding place and home.  Margaret uses a New Orleans landmark as a metaphor for reaching for home with the story of the man whose wife missed the Midwest and built her an iron fence whose top posts are shaped like corn. “She missed her first home. Her husband wanted to surround her with what she knew. And what she knew was corn.”
If your interest is piqued about Margaret, check her out on Google. There are other intriguing tidbits about her there. If you like a story well written, get one of her books. It think it will not disappoint you or Steph even though it has no recipes.