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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Book Review: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

I was feeling a little homesick so recently I opened up my copy of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.  I'm not sure if it cured my homesickness or just made me yearn for my beautiful and unique hometown more than ever.  Either way, it's a great read.

John Berendt's work of non-fiction put my town of Savannah on the map.  Seriously.  Nothing has done more for the tourism industry (our main economic driver) than this book.  Before "The Book" - as Savannahians refer to it - when my family would travel and tell people where we were from, we received blank stares.  After The Book, however, it seemed everyone knew a little something about the Hostess City of The South.

It's amazing how perfectly Berendt, a Yankee, captures Savannah's spirit (aka: our resistance to change) and its crazy characters.  He introduces the world to Lady Chablis, a black drag queen with pounds of sass, Sonny Seiler, the man who graces the UGA community with our mascot, Uga, and finally to Jim Williams, the man who made headlines.  Williams lived in the Mercer House, one of the most beautiful homes in all of Savannah.  It was there that Jim Williams shot and killed his assistant, Danny Hansford.  Williams was an upstanding citizen and host of the most exclusive Christmas party in Savannah so the murder shocked the city.  Even more shocking, however, was the news of Williams' homosexuality and Hansford's role as a hustler, which came out during the trial.

It's hard to believe I had never read the book in full before.  When it came out I was considered too young for some of the more mature themes.  Besides, I've lived it.  I grew up with the granddaughter of one of the book's more prominent characters and grew up listening to Emma Kelly.  Lady Chablis used to moderate my Mom's charity auctions.  It wasn't until after the book came out that I understood these characters are out of the ordinary.  For me, this book is nostalgic.  For you, it'll just be interesting.

4 out of 5 stars.

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