Review of High Cotton: A Bucklin Family Reunion Novel by Debby Mayne

Sometimes I read a book and review it negatively and can put my finger on exactly what I dislike. Sometimes these are literary elements. The characters aren’t well-developed. The story is too predictable. The dialogue is stilted. It’s all subjective, of course. So much about literary review and criticism is. But occasionally I dislike a novel because something personal eats at me. That was the case with High Cotton by Debby Mayne.

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Christian fiction book review
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From the book’s description…

(Amazon description)Some families are filled with so much love they can’t help but drive each other crazy.

Shay Henke has mixed feelings about going to her family’s next reunion. On the one hand, she’ll get to see everyone in her mama’s family–folks she loves unconditionally. On the other hand, she knows there’ll be more drama than you can shake a stick at.

The days leading up to the event bring one surprise after another. First Shay must deal with her sister-in-law’s deep, dark secret. Then she has to contend with the childish ways of her business-mogul twin cousins. And when her high school crush wants to be her date to the reunions . . . well, it may have been a dream come true for Shay’s teen self, but the woman she’s become doesn’t know what to make of this.

Shay’s contentment is challenged, and she’s determined to shake things up a bit. But will she find the excitement she’s looking for, or will Shay realize she prefers her quiet predictable life? One thing is certain: Life in the Bucklin family is never boring.

Christian fiction book review

My thoughts…

I’m a born and bred Southerner, ya’ll. So I immediately understood the term “High Cotton.” It’s explained before the first chapter of the book, lest you don’t know that “living in high cotton” means you’re wealthy. But I knew this already.
The book begins in an interesting way. Different members of the family are learning about the family reunion. Different chapters are told from different points of view. This isn’t a technique I usually like, so it distracted me when I first started reading. There seemed right away to be a sort of stereotypical view of the Southern Redneck. As many years as I’ve lived in the South, ya’ll- and that’d be a lot- I’ve not met people named “Digger” and “Puddin’.” Well, perhaps there was one “Puddin’.” This stereotyping and portrayal of these Southern family members as backwoods, complete with accents you can definitely read in the dialogue began to put me on edge.
And then I read the second chapter. It’s told from Puddin’s point of view. She’s related to this family having the reunion by marriage. And, although her husband doesn’t necessarily want to go, she does. She wants to show off, to let people know how far she and her husband have come financially. She’s thinking back to the way she grew up and contrasting it to her more affluent current life. She remembers getting bags of hand-me-down clothes and things always broken on her house.
This was a little much for me. We are a one income family with four children. We live in a very small house- where something’s always broken. And I’m extremely thankful for the bags of hand-me-downs my kids have been given over the years. (It saves me from going to Goodwill.)
So…maybe I took this book too personally. And I disliked it for mostly personal reasons and preferences. It turns out to be a story that has some interesting moments. The various narrators for different chapters bothers me, but the author makes it work fairly well. I don’t like the very Southern dialect- which occurs even within the thoughts of the narrators, not just in spoken dialogue. 

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