You all know (well, maybe you don’t, but if not, I’m here to tell you the truth) that deep down inside I’m just a southern girl through and through. And there is nothing I love better than settin’ on my back porch with a nice cold glass of something at my side and a big ole book to read. I am more grateful than I can say to that nice girl Trish and her friends at TLC Book Tours for sending me a book over here that has been about the best fun to read that I’ve had in a long while.
It’s called The Sweet By and By (that’s my momma’s favorite hymn tune, by the way), and it was written by a real southern gentleman named Mr. Todd Johnson. He’s from North Carolina, but this Kentucky girl won’t hold that against him because he’s gone and wrote such a wonderful book. I will say this, though – I am quite surprised that a man could write so well about women. My land, this boy must have had some very fine southern women who raised him up, because he sure does seem to understand what it’s like to be one.
Anyway, this book has some of the sweetest, funniest, and craziest women in it I ever met. Well- I should take that back. I do recall my Great Aunt Nora, when she was in the nursing home, there was this one time they say…well, never mind about that. These girls that Mr. Johnson has written about, they are really somthin’. First off, there’s Margaret Clayton, she’s livin’ in the Ridgecrest Nursing Home, poor thing, and she’s downright crippled up with arthritis. But her mind is sharp as a tack, let me tell you. Which is a good thing, because her best friend, little old Bernice – well, I’m afraid she’s not quite all together in the thinkin’ department.
But the pair of them – they make a pretty good team and keep those gals working at the nursing home on their toes. There’s Lorraine, one of the nurses aides, who is as sweet and hardworking as they come in those kinds of places, the kind of nurses aide you just hope and pray your loved one would get to take care of them. And then there’s Rhonda – she comes down once a week and does all the ladies hair (or what they’ve got left of it). Poor little Rhonda, she’s had it hard comin’ up, living with her Granny who was none too nice to her. But Margaret and Bernice have kinda taken her up, and she’s just plain fallen in love with those two old ladies. She even invited them to her wedding, isn’t that the nicest thing you ever heard tell of? Fixed their hair special and Lorraine herself drove them in for the big event (because of course those grown children of Margaret’s and Bernice’s were too busy with their own highfalutin business to be bothered.)
Anyhow, I just loved the way Mr. Johnson gave each one of the women their own chapters so they could tell their stories in their own individual voices. And he put all the chapters together so nice, just like you’d piece together a crazy quilt, and made the whole book so warm and cozy. But I have to say, sometimes this story made me just a little bit sad, because it reminded me of my own Mamaw, who was somthin’ like Miss Margaret, all laid up like she was with that arthritis, and living in that nursing home during her last years. Makes you think, that’s for sure, about what can happen to you when you get old. And sometimes that ain’t a pretty picture. I just hope I can be as spunky as Miss Margaret, and have me some good friends and caretakers like Lorraine and Rhonda. “Cuz when you come right down to it, Margaret and Bernice knew what was important – just live every minute the very best you know how.
I hope that Mr. Todd Johnson takes it into his heart to write another story someday. He is one fine storyteller. (And he’s right good lookin’ too, as you can see in the photo over there.) All in all, readin’ The Sweet By and By was almost as good as being back home at my Mamaw’s house down in Caney Creek, listenin’ to the women tell stories while dinner was cookin’ inside. My oh my, those were some good ole days.
You know, I’m real sorry to be done with this book – I’m sure gonna miss those girls.