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Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite
The war is over, but for many people in the South, the basic war of daily survival carries on. Martha and her mother, Ellen, have struggled to keep their home and their land from the warring factions that stole anything and everything they could get their hands on, all for the noble cause, from both sides of the war. In order to pay the mounting back taxes and keep their property, mother and daughter take in a boarder, one who is sympathetic to the black population and works to educate them. When a strange man, Peyton, appears on their property in the wake of the boarder’s forceful removal by angry white neighbors, neither of the women knows what to make of him. They quickly learn that he had served under Martha’s father (Ellen’s husband), and that the man the women still waited for had died in battle. It is a sad day, but when the neighbor, Arthur Langham, also appears and insists that Martha agrees to marry him, it is more than the young woman can handle. Things seem to spiral out of control as Peyton remains to help the women. Martha doesn’t want to marry Arthur and she is quickly becoming attached to Peyton. A trip to town to settle the property taxes reveals some startling news and the women realize that their problems have only just begun.
Linda Baten Johnson’s novella, Magnolia Morning: An American State Flower Novella, is part memoir, part creative nonfiction. The story is based on the lives of the author’s great-great-grandparents. Through compelling narrative, riveting plots, lovable and amusing characters, complete with realistic dialogue, the author has created a fitting tribute to her ancestors, two people, strong, determined and proud, who were thrown together in the aftermath of a brutal war.