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Women's Fiction Review    

Joan Medlicott's "Covington" Trilogy
The Ladies of Covington Send Their Love
St. Martin's, 2000
ISBN: 0-312-97945-2 (paperback)
The Gardens of Covington
St. Martin's, 2001
ISBN: 0-312-98012-4 (paperback)
From The Heart of Covington
Thomas Dunne Books(St. Martin's Press), 2002
ISBN : 0-312-28555-8

Joan Medlicott's "Covington" books offer a world well worth visiting. All three novels are warm-hearted and gentle. The characters are reminiscent of Anne George's Patricia Ann and Mary Alice from the Southern Sisters mysteries and the community they create for themselves is reminiscent of Armistead Maupin's Tales from the City. Like Anne George and Armistead Maupin, Joan Medlicott has created books that can easily be read alone or in any sequence.

In The Ladies of Covington Send Their Love, readers are introduced to Grace Singleton, Hannah Parrish, and Amelia Declose -- all "women of a certain age" who have been moved into a Pennsylvania boarding house by their families.

Grace has lived a conventional life. After losing her husband to cancer, her son, Roger, has convinced her she needs a break and would be happier moving out of their family home and into an assisted living facility. Once she's settled, he returns to his live and partner in Saudi Arabia. Too timid to make decisions for herself, Grace acquiesces to her son's benign neglect.

Grace's best friend, Hannah, ran away from her abusive husband and marriage. Going to school and trying to earn enough money to support her daughters, Laura and Miranda, taught Hannah self-sufficiency. Luckily, at mid-life, she found a way to combine her passion for gardening as a vocation. Hannah has learned that taking chances is often the only way to change one's life.

Amelia lives at the boarding house with Grace and Hannah. While the three women are friends, Amanda rarely talks about her former life. Grace and Hannah know Amanda's husband's job with the Red Cross allowed her to travel all over the world but she's told them very little about his death or the death of their nine year old daughter.

When Amelia goes into the hospital for surgery, Hannah and Grace invade her privacy trying to find Amanda's next of kin. They find a stash of letters from Amanda's cousin describing his life in Covington, North Carolina. At his death, he left the house to Amanda but she's never had the opportunity to travel south and take a look at the property for herself.

Sensing an opportunity for a change of scenery, the three ladies decide a road trip is in order. Hannah and Amelia assure Grace she can achieve the minimal 40 miles per hour required to drive on the interstate system.

The farmhouse, while in need of repair, seems a good investment for the threesome and they opt to find a way to spend summers in North Carolina as "the three musketeers." Deciding to take live life on their own terms, the ladies, despite their children's objections, move south. Each woman finds confidence, competence, and the opportunity for change. 

In The Gardens of Covington, Grace, Hannah, and Amelia continue to settle into their adopted community. Grace continues the steady relationship she found with Bob Richardson in The Ladies of Covington Send Their Love. Amelia continues working on her new career in photography and pursues a love interest. Hannah, who loves nature, gets involved in a local land dispute when a development company threatens their beloved farmhouse on Cove Road. 

As the battle lines are drawn -- old timers versus newcomers, year round residents versus summer people -- the ladies find themselves making unexpected friendships and alliances within the neighborhood. Learning not to overstep boundaries, yet wanting to fit in, Hannah, Grace, and Amelia each become engrossed in projects drawing them more deeply into their adopted communities and families. 

From the Heart of Covington, Medlicott's most recent novel, brings Hannah's most heartbreaking failure into the ladies' home. When her long-estranged daughter, Laura, loses her partner, home, and all her worldly goods in a hurricane, she has no one to turn to but her mother. Grace and Amelia immediately assure Hannah that Laura will be welcomed. 

As in the earlier novels, the ladies pursue their new found passions, make new friendships, and become an even more tightly knit family.

Joan Medlicott's "Covington" novels are wise and funny. The ladies are unforgettable.


Pam Kingsbury
Southern Scribe Reviews

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