Southern Scribe
   our culture of storytelling

 

Fiction Review     

The Opening
by Susannah Wilds
Writers Club Press, 2000
ISBN: 0-595-09081-8

 

The Opening explores the lives of six high school girl friends and the women they become.  The title can symbolize the opening of Pandora’s box, but literally refers to a thirty year-old sealed envelope of predictions written by Louisiana "Lucy" Jones.  She decides to bring the friends together and see how many of the forecasts came true. 

Lucy Jones and her friends grew up in Ashbeen, Georgia.  A small town located in between Atlanta and Augusta.  Lucy is outgoing and loves to swim.  At Girl Scout camp, she takes a lifesaving course that provides her with life lessons.  “Don’t go in the water unless you have to” or don’t take on the problems of others unless you have to.  “Don’t let the victim drown you” or don’t let your husband/friend take you down with them.  “Stay with the victim” or support your husband/friend. 

The girlhood predictions focused on husband’s career, children, and social life.  These women in their fifties had made sacrifices, discovered their empowerment through work, and realized a husband would not save them. 

Sally and Bobbie Jean were Lucy’s oldest friends.  They had all been Brownies together.  Sally was the beauty and good girl, who as an adult had to deal with cancer alone.  Bobbie Jean was the redheaded beauty that had boys at her bidding, then as an adult discovered love with a much older man and continued her generous nature in charity work. 

Becca, Wallee and Millie joined the circle of friends in high school.  Becca was her mother’s hope and dream of the future, but when she secretly marries after high school, her mother cuts off all ties.  Becca’s marriage fails, but she works hard and becomes successful in the fashion industry.   Wallee had polio as a child, and as an adult works for a polio support group.  

Millie adds the spice to this mixture, since she was and remains unpredictable.  As a young girl, she fakes her drowning.  As an adult, she sets the group up for the ultimate revenge at their reunion on Amelia Island, Florida. 

Susannah Wilds does an excellent job of capturing the sociology of this period.  The women of this generation experienced perhaps the greatest cultural changes of women in history.  The 1950’s were the fairyland of Donna Reed and June Cheever mothers.  Their world was sheltered from the vulgar and ugly.  The 1960’s moved from fantasy to stark reality – from pink weddings to Viet Nam.  For women, they realized that there was a touch of truth in their mother’s hint to “marry well,” because the corporate ladder was still closed to women.  The 1970’s opened the glass ceiling, but the home fell apart.  The Opening captures the changing times of the south from times of innocence through social changes and ending in a celebration of survival.

Joyce Dixon
Southern Scribe Reviews

© 2000 Southern Scribe, All Rights Reserved