Last month the ABM book club read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Did you read it? Did you watch the movie version? Both? As some of you may know Joy The Baker is moderating for us this month. Take it away, Joy:
Moving from the land of Pilates, kale, and beach vibes to the Deep South was all kinds of shocking. The Deep South is an amazing place to visit. History oozes from nearly every building in places like New Orleans, Louisiana and Savannah, Georgia. Every building has a story to tell, every street is full of character, and every local you meet is more than willing to share that story… and maybe even embellish just a bit. There’s a mixture of pride, history, and downright salacious stories to tell. The South really is a world of its own.
As a visitor to the South, I heard the stories and saw the buildings, but actually living in the South (in the oldest part of New Orleans) has taught me that I know so little. I’ve barely scratched the surface of what the South is, the people that make it up, and the real, nitty-gritty history that makes it up.
Enter: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt. The quintessential Southern Gothic novel. Berendt weaves a tale of murder, mystery, and the strangest Southern characters you can imagine. The story revolves around the 1981 murder of Danny Hansford, the sometimes assistant, handyman, and lover of Jim Williams, an internationally recognized antiques dealer. Was it self-defense or was it murder? More importantly, how much wealth and influence does it take to get yourself out of a murder conviction in Savannah, Georgia.
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is a true crime novel at its roots, but really, it’s a story about Savannah and the characters that give pulse to that city. There’s Emma Kelly the extravagant singer, Lady Chablis the 100% outrageous drag queen, Joe Odom the questionable though very charming musician, and perhaps my favorite, Luther Driggers, the man who has enough poison to kill the entire city of Savannah. All of these characters weave through the city and the story, making it a truly Southern tale.
So now, the questions remain:
– Did Jim kill Danny? And while we’re talking about Jim, is he a sympathetic character at all? Is he funny and charming, or more deceiving and dark?
– Do we have a sense for what is good and what is evil in Savannah? My eyebrows are raised, and I’m not sure what’s what.
– Do you wonder how much Minerva really knows?
– This story makes Savannah seem like such an insular and closed city. Could this story have taken place anywhere else?
– Lastly, how much do you wish that Luther Driggers' glow-in-the-dark goldfish worked? Such a good idea!
Thank you so much for reading along with me! I hope you got a big deep breath of the South. Let’s talk about the book together! -Joy