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  Fiction Review  

 
A Place Called Wiregrass
By Michael Morris
RiverOak Publishing, 2002
softcover, $14.99 (359pp)
ISBN: 1-58919-966-9
 
 
 

A Place Called Wiregrass is southern fiction at its finest.  A strong sense of place comes through the small town of Wiregrass, Alabama, where there is a class structure between those that have and those who do without.  A sense of faith comes through the traditions of southern culture that are founded in the church family and follow a practice of good deeds.  Elements of southern gothic appear in memories of the domestic violence that haunts the women of this novel.  The mythology of the southern women as steel magnolias is evident in how each woman rises from the depths of despair to find her self-worth and value in society.  It’s hard to believe this is Michael Morris’s debut novel.

After an accident at the factory, emotional abuse from her mother’s cold heart and years of physical abuse from her husband, Erma Lee has hit rock bottom.  If her granddaughter Cher is to escape this cycle of abuse, she must pack up and run.  They settle in a trailer park in Wiregrass, Alabama.

Life takes a new direction for Erma Lee as her job as a lunch lady at school leads to a part-time job as companion for the principal’s mother Miss Claudia.  The wealthy widow of town’s department store owner, welcomes Erma Lee and befriends her.  Soon she meets Gerald a handsome widower who lives a simple life in the country and owns an auto repair shop.  The strong faith of Gerald and Miss Claudia cause Erma Lee to open her heart to God and turn the demons of her past over to his hands.

That faith is tested by the hypocrisy she sees at Miss Claudia’s church as well as when her granddaughter reconnects with the father that abandoned her in a crack house.  Buried secrets come to light, and the healing process that follows reaffirms her faith.

A Place Called Wiregrass is a powerful story of survival from emotional scars and the ability to help those with the same struggle.  The writing is vivid and highly emotional.  Reaching a mainstream audience, though published by a Christian fiction house, the novel is a story of finding grace and the uplifting power of prayer.

Michael Morris is a fifth-generation native of rural northern Florida.  He began writing the story that became A Place Called Wiregrass while studying under the late author Tim McLaurin.  Morris credits McLaurin with motivating him with the statement – “you’re a good writer.”  I feel that readers of A Place Called Wiregrass will agree.

 

Joyce Dixon
Southern Scribe Reviews

 

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