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My Summer of Southern Discomfort
Cover of My Summer of Southern Discomfort
My Summer of Southern Discomfort
A Novel

Today is Monday. The calls do not come as before. Weeks elapse between them, and when I answer the phone there is no overlap of voices, only my mother's. She spends much of the conversation avoiding mention of the pink elephant trumpeting in the middle of the room.

The pink elephant would be my defection to Georgia. When I telephoned with the news of my imminent relocation my father asked, "Georgia, as in the Republic of Georgia by the Black Sea, or Georgia as in the Peach State?" He hoped I meant the former because that Georgia promised unique opportunities to advance the democratic cause of justice. What could Georgia, former land of the Confederacy, offer?

Convicting arsonists and thieves in Macon, Georgia, was never Harvard Law grad Natalie Goldberg's dream. The pay is abysmal, the work is exhausting, and the humidity is hell for a woman with curly hair. But when a steamy romance with her high-powered New York boss went bad, Natalie jumped at the first job offered, packed her bags, and headed south.

Natalie's leftist Yankee background brands her a conspicuous outsider in this insular community. Her father, a famous civil rights lawyer, refuses to accept her career change—or talk to her. Her best friend begs her to come back home, and Natalie keeps thinking she sees her former lover everywhere.

But Natalie's not completely alone. There are a garden-obsessed neighbor, a former beauty queen–turned–defense attorney, and a handsome colleague who has a nervous tic whenever she gets near. And then there's a capital case that has her eating antacids by the truckload.

Yep, it's going to be one heckuva long, hot summer. . . .

Today is Monday. The calls do not come as before. Weeks elapse between them, and when I answer the phone there is no overlap of voices, only my mother's. She spends much of the conversation avoiding mention of the pink elephant trumpeting in the middle of the room.

The pink elephant would be my defection to Georgia. When I telephoned with the news of my imminent relocation my father asked, "Georgia, as in the Republic of Georgia by the Black Sea, or Georgia as in the Peach State?" He hoped I meant the former because that Georgia promised unique opportunities to advance the democratic cause of justice. What could Georgia, former land of the Confederacy, offer?

Convicting arsonists and thieves in Macon, Georgia, was never Harvard Law grad Natalie Goldberg's dream. The pay is abysmal, the work is exhausting, and the humidity is hell for a woman with curly hair. But when a steamy romance with her high-powered New York boss went bad, Natalie jumped at the first job offered, packed her bags, and headed south.

Natalie's leftist Yankee background brands her a conspicuous outsider in this insular community. Her father, a famous civil rights lawyer, refuses to accept her career change—or talk to her. Her best friend begs her to come back home, and Natalie keeps thinking she sees her former lover everywhere.

But Natalie's not completely alone. There are a garden-obsessed neighbor, a former beauty queen–turned–defense attorney, and a handsome colleague who has a nervous tic whenever she gets near. And then there's a capital case that has her eating antacids by the truckload.

Yep, it's going to be one heckuva long, hot summer. . . .

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About the Author-
  • Stephanie Gayle's work has appeared in the literary magazines 400 Words, The Charles River Review, Edgar Literary Journal, Ellipsis, and The Fourth River. Her story "Interior Design" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

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  • Publisher's Weekly

    May 7, 2007
    S
    hort story writer Gayle makes her debut as a novelist with this chronicle of a young, liberal New York lawyer who starts over in the South. The daughter of a famous civil rights champion, Natalie Goldberg stuns her parents by moving to Bibb County, Ga., to work as a prosecutor. The job was initially Natalie's excuse to flee her position at a Manhattan law firm after having an affair with partner Henry Tate and finding herself the scapegoat for a mistake he made. Though Natalie has some trouble acclimating to her new environs, and she butts heads with co-counsel, good ol' boy Ben Maddox, she slowly warms to life in Bibb County while attempting to balance her anti–death penalty stance with her desire to win a capital case. Natalie's dilemmas are perfectly played, and Gayle's economical prose is peppered with sharp sentences (also a few duds: “I felt as if I had been born full woman, Athena from Zeus's brow, with heavy breasts and dark pubic hair as curly as that atop my head”) and clever fish-out-of-water observations. Don't be fooled by the ditzy jacket art.

  • AudioFile Magazine Macon, Georgia, couldn't be more different from New York City if it were on Mars. Macon is where attorney Natalie Goldberg lands after a disastrous end to her tenure at a Manhattan law firm. Julie Dretzin excels in characterizing both Natalie and her new Southern colleagues in the district attorney's office. She doesn't succumb to stereotypical accents. And she gently highlights the changes that take place in Natalie, which include shedding her anti-death-penalty stance to prosecute a capital murder case. Dretzin's melodic reading ably portrays Natalie as she gets to know her co-prosecutor, navigates her new surroundings, and comes to terms with her unexpected new career path, all of which begin to make Macon feel like home. J.J.B. (c) AudioFile 2009, Portland, Maine
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A Novel
Stephanie Gayle
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