Plot: This novel is well plotted and skillfully executed, with humor and genuine characters. Readers will be drawn into the story immediately.
Prose: The prose here is solid; the tone and language are fluid and consistent.
Originality: While the subject matter is not new, the author puts a distinct spin on it and takes readers on a compelling ride.
Character Development: Readers will engage with the book's characters—both the major and minor players. The characters are well-rounded, entertaining, and true to life.
Date Submitted: August 04, 2017
Aunt Sookie & Me by Michael Scott Garvin is a rollicking good tale set in the late 1960s, a time of great prejudice, but also of great heart. Thirteen-year-old Poppy Wainwright is being shipped to Savannah, Georgia, after the unexpected death of her grandmother to live with her grandmother’s ornery sister, Sookie. Filled with a quirky cast of characters, Aunt Sookie & Me: The Sordid Tale of a Scandalous Southern Belle is hilarious, heartwarming and heartbreaking.
Michael Scott Garvin crafts an enjoyable read as he details a year in the life of Poppy, a young trans-girl living through the cultural upheaval that was the 1960s. Garvin takes what could have been a grim tale and gives it a light approach while still highlighting some of the prejudices of the times. While Poppy is the main character, her aunt Sookie is the heart of the story. Even though she has a ready insult for all whom she meets, she also has a ready hand to help. Rude, crude, and occasionally lewd, she nonetheless has a good head on her shoulders and I could not see Poppy being raised by anyone else.
But Aunt Sookie & Me is not all light-hearted frivolity and also dives into tragedy and sorrow that will have the reader holding their breath, hoping that everyone makes it out all right in the end. Garvin crafts a well-written tale in the vein of many heartwarming southern classics.
There’s no surer way to feel blessed in this life than to delve into a story with complicated, flawed, flailing characters. Aunt Sookie and Me, by Michael Scott Garvin, is just such a tale. It opens when Poppy Wainwright—a child with (initially) unidentified “peculiarities,” whose grandmother and guardian recently passed, joins her Aunt Sook, and Sook’s “live-in” goat, Annabelle, in a dilapidated antebellum home in Savannah, Georgia. Miss Loretta Jo Nell Wainwright, Poppy’s mother—an addict who floats from place to place—joins the two for a time. Poppy never expects Miss Loretta to stay long when she stops by and, surprisingly, even seems to hold no grudge against her for her wayward behavior. As events unfold, Poppy makes friends with the neighbors, the ice cream man, the pastor, and even with Donita, the battered wife of a former town high school sports hero. Each person seems to have a secret, not least of all, Poppy. How people might react if they discover that they’ve been duped becomes Poppy’s worry, as she, Aunt Sookie, and Miss Loretta, keep Poppy's own “peculiar” secret.
From time to time I pick up a work that keeps me turning pages quickly. This was such a read. Michael Scott Garvin provides just the right amount of detail in each setting to bring it to life; to each character to make you feel something about or for him or her, and of each situation to make you feel “present.” Drawn so well, the individual characters in Aunt Sookie and Me did not evoke singular reactions from me. Rather, each made me feel a complicated array of emotions. I found Poppy both strong and odd; Aunt Sook, both eccentric and down-to-earth; Loretta, both pitiful and understandable. They and others make for a colorful cast that sheds some light on societal norms and their evolution. I rather enjoyed it!
Thirteen-year-old Poppy Wainwright’s mother is a drug addict and drunk who roams the United States, leaving Poppy to be raised by her Grandma Lainey in Arkansas. When Lainey dies, Poppy is sent to live with her grandmother’s sister in Savannah. Aunt Sookie is an abrasive old woman whose chief joys in life are shooting her neighbor’s twin boys with her BB gun and tending to her vegetable garden. Sookie is uncertain how Poppy will fit in with the locals and forbids her to leave the yard at first, but the young girl gradually befriends a few of the local children and a woman at the church. Poppy even meets a handsome boy and develops her first crush. It’s only a matter of time before the secrets start falling from the Wainwright family tree.
Aunt Sookie and Me is a heart-warming tale with liberal sprinkles of laugh out loud moments. Michael Scott Garvin is a cunning writer and the plot of Sookie and Me is more layered than it appears in the first few chapters. Garvin confronts delicate issues surrounding gender equality and identity, sexuality, and rape culture in a matter of fact manner that keeps the story light while still providing food for thought. The characters in this novel are well-developed and even mean old Sookie and Poppy’s disastrous mother are likeable. Sookie and Me is a coming of age story with a distinct difference that has all the makings of a classic. I think everyone should read this book.