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 Literary Classic Review    


Here To Get My Baby Out of Jail
By Louise Shivers
John F. Blair, 2003
Quality Paper, $10.95 (145 pages)
ISBN: 0-89587-282-X



Twenty years ago, Louise Shivers' Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail garnered praise from Eudora Welty, Rita Mae Brown, and Mary Gordon. First published in 1983, the novel was named Best First Book of the Year by USA Today and was made into the film "Summer Heat" with Lori Singer, Anthony Edwards, and Kathy Bates. The twentieth anniversary edition is a lovely book, complete with a Reading Group Guide. 

Having lost her mother to complications from childbirth and her grandmother, Roxy Halston is well acquainted with grief. Her familial relationships are complicated by her father marriage to her mother's sister after her mother's death and her two half-siblings, a sister and brother. 

"Mr. Will," Roxanna's daddy, owns the local funeral home where he employs local boys with no other chance for bettering themselves. He wryly observes that there are only two ways to make money in Tarborough, North Carolina in 1937 -- 'bacca and death. Roxy, who married into a tobacco farming family, understands the harshness of both choices. 

Aaron, Roxy's husband, gave up his chance to go to the state college for teachers to marry her. At twenty, she seems consigned to a life of routine and silence. When Jack Ruffin starts coming out to the house for dinner and to play music with Aaron, his presence is a break in the monotony. No one understands the danger in Jack until it's too late for all involved. 

Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail is an engrossing story. Shivers acknowledges using her childhood memories for the novel's background. Her father owned and operated a funeral home and her aunt owned a tobacco farm in Greene County. In the Reading Group Guide, Shivers writes, "After I married at age nineteen, I left North Carolina for many years ....... When I went back to my hometown of Wilson in 1970, my father was dead ... The feel of my father's compassion and love of life still hung in the air. I thought, 'That is too good to disappear ... and if I don't write it down, it will all be gone forever."  

Shivers lives in Augusta, Georgia where she's writer-in-residence at Augusta State University. 


Pam Kingsbury
Southern Scribe Reviews

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