Belly Up in the Aftermath Lounge
by Rheta Grimsley Johnson
- This month, Rheta discovers "Aftermath Lounge," a novel in stories by Margaret McMullan, a writer with Pass Christian roots.
Today, at age 55, she is excitedly planning her return. Her father, Jim McMullan, died “on a chilly spring day when the lilacs had just started to bloom.” Her mother still lives in the pale yellow house, and soon Margaret and her husband, Pat O’Connor, will, too.
There are many voices and perspectives in Aftermath Lounge, cutting across income and class lines, showing the true democratic nature of disaster. One sentence early in the book hooked me, made me know I’d read the whole book, quite possibly more than once:
“Norma had never thought much about why she lived where she lived just as she had not thought much about being with Sam all these years … not until now. But standing there, looking out Miss Betty’s window, Norma felt just then a vague sense of relief that at least she and Sam were not landlocked. At least here there was always something or at least the chance of something wonderful, terrible, or dangerous coming at them and it was up to them to see it through….”
That’s why I’m living on the Gulf Coast, I think. At least I’m not landlocked.
If you’ve ever read much at all, you might tremble at the foreshadowing. But the subtlety of her characters and place descriptions lends to the power of the narrative. She doesn’t beat us over the head with the two-by-four of wind and water. She doesn’t tell, she shows.
“It was tight quarters inside the trailer. There was the kitchen with its toy-sized plastic sink, a table with two attached seats, and then the bed in back, taking up almost half the space. Spread out on an empty flour sack on the kitchen counter was a sea of broken bits of blue and white china, and next to it a stack of glue-together plates….”
Margaret McMullan will be reading and signing her books at Pass Books on Friday, April 24, at 6 p.m. She has written six other novels and recently edited the collection Every Father’s Daughter, 24 Writers Remember Their Fathers.
Catch her if you can.
Rheta Grimsley Johnson is a 40-year veteran of Southern journalism and author of several books (see below). She has worked as a columnist for newspapers in Memphis and Atlanta and today is syndicated by King Features of New York.
She writes original monthly essays for The Cleaver from her home across the bridge in Pass Christian where she spends roughly half of each year. The rest of the time she lives in Iuka, Miss., in an old farmhouse in a cold, dark hollow.
Rheta Grimsley Johnson books are available at the regular online outlets or the charming local bookstores that make buying one a fun experience - Bay Books and Pass Books/Cat Island Coffeehouse