Kaye Gibbons may be best known for her two books that were chosen together as Oprah Book Club selections, Ellen Foster and A Virtuous Woman. However, my favorite Gibbons book is a lesser-known novel, Charms for the Easy Life.
Margaret is the narrator of this beautiful story of three generations of women living an off-beat life in Wake County, North Carolina. Her mother, Sophia, is a beautiful, smart woman, who loves to read, but married a "cad", against her mother's wishes. Margaret, a shy, brilliant woman, idolizes her grandmother, the strength of the family, and the one who holds it together. Charms for the Easy Life is a family story, of three women who depend on each other, through life, and then through the trauma and losses during World War II. However, Charlie Kate, Margaret's grandmother, is the linchpin of the family, and the local community.
Charlie Kate was an excellent midwife by the age of twenty. She grew herbs, studied medical textbooks, and took care of the entire community. She achieved local fame for her hygienic improvements, and the sex education she taught to thirteen year old teens. Over the years, Charlie Kate achieved recognition for her contributions, not only to the community, but also to the medical community.
Charms for the Easy Life is a rich novel, with wonderful, strong women, who lead unconventional lives. It's not as well-known as some of Gibbons' other novels, so it's this Friday's "Forgotten" book.
Charms for the Easy Life by Kaye Gibbons. HarperCollins Publishers, ©1993. ISBN 9780060760250 (paperback), 272p.