This night not only marked the end to the drought, but also the end to the long-held secret we'd kept hidden under the magnolias.
Magnolia, South Carolina, 1980
Austin Foster is barely a teenager when her mama dies giving birth to twins, leaving her to pick up the pieces while holding her six siblings together and doing her best to stop her daddy from retreating into his personal darkness.
Scratching out a living on the family's tobacco farm is as tough as it gets. When a few random acts of kindness help to ease the Fosters' hardships, Austin finds herself relying upon some of Magnolia's most colorful citizens for friendship and more. But it's next to impossible to hide the truth about the goings-on at Nolia Farms, and Austin's desperate attempts to save face all but break her.
Just when it seems she might have something more waiting for her--with the son of a wealthy local family who she's crushed on for years--her father makes a choice that will crack wide-open the family's secrets and lead to a public reckoning. There are consequences for loving a boy like Vance Cumberland, but there is also freedom in the truth.
T. I. Lowe's gritty yet tender and uplifting tale reminds us that a great story can break your heart . . . then heal it in the best possible way.
* Thanks to NetGalley and Tyndale House Publishers for an eARC of this book. The following review is my honest reflection on the text provided. *
A beautifully emotional story, Under the Magnolias does not shy away from the messy, scary parts of life.
While Austin is a strong, independent character, she's still believable. She makes mistakes and pushes away those who only want to help her. Austin has an idea in her head of who she is supposed to be and how she is supposed to handle her difficult situation; she strives to accomplish everything independently, no matter how impossible the task. The life she leads is daunting and overwhelming, but she keeps moving forward. Her family is lovable and exhausting, her six siblings have unique personalities and complex lives, and they all come together to form a unique and exciting cast.
Vance is hard to read at first. It's difficult to get to the bottom of his hanging around Nolia Farm. I wanted to believe the best of him, but I was preparing myself for the rich douchebag bait-and-switch. He, like Austin and her family, is a complex and interesting character with serious depth.
I loved the eclectic church community acting as one big crazy family. They each had their role to play and contributed to the narrative in unique and interesting ways. Every one of them had their own complicated histories to deal with, and I loved getting to know their stories as well.
Under the Magnolias could have been twice as long, and I still would have wanted more. The descriptive writing made me feel like I was there, especially during the sweltering southern summers. An intense, emotional read; I loved every moment.