An 11-year-old with a superiority complex

Carol Luers EymanOnce a week, usually on Wednesday, Loren Rosson adds the latest Next Great Reads book to our staff picks shelf.

Flora by Gail Godwin

“Flora” by Gail Godwin is available at the library in hardcover.

Apparently this is one of your favorite book displays in the library, because he has to refill it daily. He often even has to display additional books by “Next Great Read” authors, lest the shelf appear empty and neglected.

That’s partly why I’m reviewing Flora by Gail Godwin this week.

While I definitely encourage you to read this small novel, I also want to get Gail Godwin’s other books in your face. She comes out with a new one every three years or so.

Literary and character-driven, Godwin’s novels are often set in the South. The protagonists are usually women, often teachers, artists, or clergy.

In Flora, it’s 1945 and 11-year-old Helen is grieving over the loss of her grandmother, who has raised Helen since her mother died when she was 3.

Helen’s father, a school principal, is leaving for the summer to work in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, on what turns out to be the Manhattan Project. So Flora, a naive 21-year-old, travels to North Carolina to look after her niece Helen for three months.

The precocious Helen fancies herself more worldly than Flora. “She was the first older person I felt superior to,” she recalls.

In fact I did wonder about Flora’s ability to maintain the household, especially after her frequent crying bouts. Helen’s grandmother used to say that Flora possessed “the gift of tears.” And Godwin gives this quirk of Flora’s a humorous bent, reminiscent of current late-night comedian riffs on teary-eyed Speaker of the House John Boehner.

In a novel centered around character more than action, Helen’s conceit fuels one of the few plot turns. After she entertains adolescent fantasies for weeks, her blind belief that the young man who delivers groceries A Southern FamilyA Mother and Two Daughterswill return her romantic advances leads to a confrontation among the main characters.

If you don’t see Flora on the staff picks display when you come in, look for two of my favorite Gail Godwin novels: A Mother and Two Daughters and A Southern Family.

About Carol Luers Eyman

Carol Luers Eyman is the outreach and community services coordinator at the Nashua Public Library. After graduating from Kirkland College, she earned a master’s of education and a certificate in technical communication from the University of Massachusetts.

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