Friday, June 27, 2008

Friday's "Forgotten" Books - Charms for the Easy Life

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.


Charles Finch said...

Sound fantastic! I definitely missed that one.

Barrie said...

I will definitely read this. I read Ellen Foster and A Virtuous Woman and loved them! Thank you for this review.

Lesa said...

Charles! Thanks for the note. Yes, this one certainly is not as depressing as some of Gibbons' other books. I loved Charlie Kate, and the family relationships in this.

Lesa said...


Let me know what you think of this one once you read it. It's my favorite.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Love all her books. Especially this one. Thanks for remembering it.

Lesa said...


Thanks for coming up with Friday's Forgotten Books. I love the idea!

And, this is my favorite Kaye Gibbons book.

Anonymous said...

I am going to teach this book to 11th graders. Any ideas?

Lesa said...

I loved Charms for the Easy Life, and never thought of it for teaching, so maybe my ideas are off the wall.

Since the women depend on each other through WWII, perhaps something about women's roles on the homefront, with the men at war.

Then, of course, there's all the use of herbs over the years - medicine, love potions, poisons. I'm sure some of those students would be fascinated with the love potions and poisons part.

And, perhaps which of the three women they admire in the book. The women are the main characters, with men not having strong roles.

I'd have to go back and reread this book to think of other ideas. Good luck, and I wish you'd come back and tell me how it worked.