Book Review Twenty-Five
April 11, 2009
Eat, Drink, and Be From Mississippi is a wonderful story for almost anyone who has left one home where they grew up and made a new home in another place. Right after high school graduation, Courtney Noonan decides to leave Hinds County, Mississippi to enroll at the University of California at Berkeley. Not too long after her arrival, redheaded Courtney meets Hastings at a Grateful Dead concert. Hastings is ten years older, successful with his own company and has the confidence that comes from family money. He is swept off his feet by this hot tempered, high strung, Mississippi exotic. Continuing to run against her southern norms, Courtney and Hastings move in together. Courtney invites her brother Truly for a visit and he returns to Hinds County a changed man. The loss of both children to a place that is totally foreign to their parents is separation at its most painful. Truly attends college and with a partner develops a business that quickly eclipses anything financially he had ever dreamed of. Truly and Courtney begin to see the size of the chasm in their past lives when they return home for their father's funeral. In small Hinds County, time seems to truly have stood still. Truly reflects on the security he felt by knowing what his father would say even before he would speak it. He recalls his days of fishing with his father and their strongly held belief that if more people fished, there would be fewer psychiatrists in business.
Truly's success in business doesn't carry over into his marriage which ends with the surprising condemnation of his Bible carrying sister. In natural order, however, Courtney soon discovers Hastings' affair with a younger woman and faces her own ordeal of doubt and loneliness. For some, geography and extended family are the mainstays of home. For Truly and Courtney together over the years the sense of home has been centered around the love of their native food. In moments of stress and triumph-vegetable soup, cornbread from a cast iron skillet, macaroni and cheese, collards, and country fried steak are used to build the hearth of warmth that is the center of their physical dwelling.
In a toast, surrounded by one of their favorite meals, Courtney aptly speaks for many, (regardless of their origin)
"Oh to H... with it all, eat, drink, and Be From Mississippi."