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Swan : a novel
Frances Mayes
Adult Fiction MAYES

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From Publishers' Weekly:

Combining elements from her own life abroad and at home, Mayes presents her first novel, after a series of wildly popular Italian memoirs (Under the Tuscan Sun, etc.). The author, a Georgia native, has much working in her favor: she's built up a legion of loyal readers through her nonfiction, and this tale which takes place in a Steel Magnolias-like sleepy Southern town offers the tried and true matters of family saga, mystery and Americana. The Mason family has owned cotton mills and other valuable real estate in the town of Swan, Ga. for generations. J.J. and Ginger Mason lost their mother, Catherine, when they were children. Now they are in their early 30s, and Ginger is living where else? in Tuscany, working as an archeologist; J.J. is still in Swan, a sort of reclusive mountain man who spends his days sketching the arrowheads he finds on fishing trips. They're reunited when bad news surfaces: Catherine's body has mysteriously been dug up, 19 years after her death. Ginger flies home, and she and J.J., while at a loss as to whodunit, begin to unearth previously unknown details about their mother's life. With the steady if not necessarily riveting mystery serving as a base plot, Mayes weaves various side stories involving the unfortunate demise of Ginger and J.J.'s father and the fate of their grandfather's mistress, among others. Mayes's writing is smooth and her homespun evocations of the steamy South are moving. And although the story begins to lose its oomph after 200 or so pages, this is a pleasurable read that will please Mayes's devotees. Agent, Peter Ginsberg. (Oct. 8) Forecast: The built-in audience, Mayes's name recognition and probable media play targeted at reading groups will surely ignite sales. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Fans of Mayes's memoirs about her life in Italy (Under the Tuscan Sun and Bella Tuscany) will not be disappointed by her first novel, which is set in a backwater town in Mayes's native Georgia. The Masons are the richest family in Swan, but their money couldn't protect them from tragedy. When Ginger and her brother J.J. were children, their beautiful and loving mother committed suicide; their father suffered a stroke soon afterwards, and the children were raised by their Aunt Lily. Now in their thirties, Ginger works as an archaeologist in Tuscany, while J.J. spends most of his time hunting and fishing. But all that changes when their mother's grave is ransacked, and the subsequent investigation proves beyond a doubt that Catherine Mason was actually murdered. As Ginger and J.J. begin to unravel the truth about the past, they also begin to accept their own and others' weaknesses. Mayes clearly never met a quirky character she didn't like, and she's seemingly put every one of them in this book, whether or not they move the plot forward (and most do not). This slows down the pace considerably, especially because these secondary characters aren't well delineated. With that caveat, this remains a solid read, sure to please readers who enjoy Southern fiction.-Nancy Pearl, Washington Ctr. for the Book, Seattle (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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main characters Ginger Mason
Female
Divorced
Living in Tuscany.
Archaeologist

J. J. Mason
Male
Recluse
Ginger's brother.
Artist

Aunt Lily
Female
Single



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