On July 4, 1955, in rural Georgia, an act of violence threatens the life of Vidalia Lee Kandal’s pre-born daughter. Despite the direst of circumstances, the spirit of Vidalia’s lost child refuses to leave her ill-equipped young mother’s side. For as long as she is needed—through additional... more
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On July 4, 1955, in rural Georgia, an act of violence threatens the life of Vidalia Lee Kandal’s pre-born daughter. Despite the direst of circumstances, the spirit of Vidalia’s lost child refuses to leave her ill-equipped young mother’s side. For as long as she is needed—through additional troublesome pregnancies, through poverty, spousal abuse, and agonizing betrayals—Cieli Mae, the determined spirit child, narrates their journey. Serving as a safe place and sounding board for Vidalia’s innermost thoughts and confusions, lending a strength to her momma’s emerging voice, Cieli Mae provides her own brand of comfort and encouragement, all the while honoring the restrictions imposed by her own otherworldly status. Vidalia finds further support in such unlikely relations and townsfolk as Doc Feldman, Gamma Gert and her Wild Women of God, and most particularly in Ruby Pearl Banks, the wise, kind, and courageous church lady, who has suffered her own share of heartache in their small Southern town of yesteryear’s prejudices and presumptions. My Sweet Vidalia is wise and witty, outstanding for its use of vibrant, poetic language and understated Southern dialect, as well as Mantella’s clear-eyed observations of race relations as human relations, a cast of unforgettable characters, an in-depth exploration of the ties that bind, and its creative perspective. My Sweet Vidalia is a rare, wonderful, and complex look at hope, strength, the unparalleled power of unconditional love, and a young mother’s refusal to give up.
A transplant to the South, Deborah Mantella has lived and taught in various cities in the Northeast and the Midwest. Now a resident of Georgia, she lives outside Atlanta. ...more
My Sweet Vidalia by Deborah Mantella is, in a word, captivating. This debut novel tells the story of Vidalia Lee Kandal, a young Georgia woman in the 1950’s, through the eyes of the spirit of her daughter, Cieli Mae. As Vidalia traverses the challenges of her life: multiple pregnancies, miscarriages, spousal abuse, and poverty, spirit child Cieli Mae is Vidalia’s invisible companion. She nudges, encourages, and guides her momma Vidalia toward becoming the woman she was meant to be. Mantella’s prose is gorgeous. Her sentences sing. With beautiful artistry she weaves a tale both heartbreaking and thought-provoking, culminating in an exciting, satisfying conclusion and an epilogue that left me in tears. This stirring novel about the transcendent bond between a mother and her daughter is not to be missed!Brenda Lowder
In her memorable debut novel, My Sweet Vidalia, Deborah Mantella explores the supernatural symbiotic cord tethering mother and daughter. Set in 1955 rural Georgia, Mantella’s story has spirit-born child, Cieli Mae, narrate the turbulent life of her young mother, Vidalia Lee Kandal. Reading Mantella’s prose is a treat. Crafted sentences wring every ounce of emotion and homespun logic out of thoughts conveyed. As a Southerner, My Sweet Vidalia transported me into a South before my existence. To the life of an impoverished young woman trapped by raw domestic violence, racial strife and folks with impudent indifference to both. My mouth watered at Ruby Pearl Banks’ buttermilk biscuits dripping with butter and honey. I recoiled at prejudices so openly displayed; commonplace happenings because that’s just the way things are. Good-hearted small town comes alive in Vidalia’s benefactors such as Doc Feldman, Gamma Gert and the sisters of the Church of the Twelve Apostles. As Vidalia’s tale unfolds, the reader can’t help but root for her and her spirit-child guide to triumph over the lousy hand fate dealt them through the blows of her abuser, JB. My Sweet Vidalia is a magical gut-wrenching written tale of a blossoming steel magnolia and the old infant soul who shepherds – and goads – her mama’s emergence.Jamie Miles