Going down South

Going down South

by Bonnie Glover

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From the author of The Middle Sister comes a heartwarming tale of second chances and the unparalleled love between mothers and daughters.

When fifteen-year-old Olivia Jean finds herself in the “family way,” her mother, Daisy, who has never been very maternal, springs into action. Daisy decides that Olivia Jean can’t stay in New York and whisks her away to her grandmother’s farm in Alabama to have the baby–even though Daisy and her mother, Birdie, have been estranged for years. When they arrive, Birdie lays down the law: Sure, her granddaughter can stay, but Daisy will have to stay as well. Though Daisy is furious, she has no choice.

Now, under one little roof in the 1960s Deep South, three generations of spirited, proud women are forced to live together. One by one, they begin to lose their inhibitions and share their secrets. And as long-guarded truths emerge, a baby is born–a child with the power to turn these virtual strangers into a real, honest-to-goodness family.

Praise for Going Down South:

“Long live Olivia Jean, Daisy, and Birdie! These three daughters, mothers, and women are smart, feisty, and funny. Their stories will break your heart in the very best way. I absolutely loved Going Down South!”
—Carleen Brice, author of Orange Mint and Honey

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345507389
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/29/2008
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 272
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Bonnie Glover was born in Florence, Alabama, but grew up in the mean streets of Brooklyn's East New York, where her book The Middle Sister is set. She attended Rafael Cordero Junior High School and John Dewey High School, both in Brooklyn. She obtained a BS degree at the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee, Florida, and eventually a law degree from the Stetson University College of Law in St. Petersburg, Florida. She currently works for the Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Regional Counsel. She lives in Pembroke Pines, Florida, with her husband, Craig, and two sons, Matt and Ben.

Read an Excerpt

Part One

Olivia Jean

Her father, Turk, went down first, holding his work boots by the strings with his overnight kit tucked under one arm. He walked on his toes, taking the seventh step down with a side maneuver because he knew it creaked. He had learned his lesson the hard way from her mother, Daisy, waiting at the top of the stairs one night about five years ago. His foot strayed and pressed ahead when he should have gone to the left or the right. He might have made it past her if it hadn’t been for that step. She had dozed off, and there were ways to get around Daisy when she was asleep. But he was in no state to remember all of the things he should have remembered. And besides, Daisy was sitting with her legs flung across the top of the landing just so she could catch him. Clutched in her right hand was a broom leaning forward at a cockeyed slant, straw bottom down and ready to do damage.

That night in March, Olivia Jean had just passed her tenth birthday and should have been asleep when he touched lucky stair number seven and it whined loud enough to wake her mother. Daisy grunted, choking on a snore, and was on her feet lightning quick without even rubbing her eyes or wiping the thin line of drool at the corner of her mouth. She gripped the broom in both hands, turned it upside down, and swung it at Turk’s copper-skinned head. He leaned away in time but she started at him again. Her robe fell open, and Olivia Jean saw long, thick legs under a nightgown that stopped near her coochie, and then one of her titties fell out as she lifted her arm and aimed again. Olivia Jean was crouched at the keyhole of her bedroom door, jaw wide, the scene surprising her so much that she banged her head against the doorknob as she tried to get a better view.

Daisy kept swinging as if she were trying to get at a spider in the corner or a big, fat cockroach that always appeared out of nowhere when company came to visit. There was rage in her swinging, rage reserved for bugs, bad impressions, and drunken husbands. Then her other titty bounced free, and Turk fell back, clutching the railing. It seemed as though he was as surprised as Olivia Jean was. In all her days Olivia Jean had never seen Daisy’s girl parts, and seeing them then, when her mother was in the middle of trying to kill her daddy, was enough to freeze Olivia Jean right where she was—on her knees, peeking into the dim hallway when she should have been curled up asleep with her Raggedy Ann tucked under her arm.

That was when Olivia Jean took a deep breath, stood up, opened the door, and ran out of her bedroom. Turk wasn’t grabbing the broom or telling Daisy to stop or trying to move away or anything. He had leaned back, dropped his arms, and let Daisy continue to hit him with the broom across his shoulders, moving him backward as if she were going to push him down the stairs. Olivia Jean knew someone was going to call the police if they didn’t stop. At four in the morning people should be in bed, going to bed, or at least thinking about going to bed, not on a rampage like Daisy was, beating Turk with the straw end of a broom while she danced around the hallway half-naked.

So when Daisy raised her broomstick higher, above her shoulders, aiming for the top of his head, Olivia Jean jumped in front of her father. No one moved. The only sound had been the swish of the broom as it waved through the air and its connection with Turk’s body—a muffled whack, whack, whack—and, too, the sound of Daisy’s heavy breathing from all the work she was doing beating Turk.

Now things were still except for Daisy’s heaving shoulders and breasts. Olivia Jean felt her heart pounding so hard that she thought it might thud out of her chest.

Then Daisy smiled—one of those low-down smiles she used when she punished Olivia Jean—aimed the broom, and almost hit her daughter; the straw brushed the air, tickling the end of Olivia Jean’s nose. Olivia Jean had felt the panic rising in the pit of her stomach as the broom swept toward her. Daisy laughed when Olivia Jean flinched. Daisy’s breathing was hard, and Olivia Jean smelled the last cigarette Daisy had smoked and the Pond’s face cream her mother rubbed into her elbows every night. She dropped the broom as Olivia Jean tried to shield Turk, her arms thrown out so that she covered a fraction of his belly. Daisy was giving him the evil eye the whole time, but he was busy ducking behind Olivia Jean as though Daisy were still hitting him, his hands in the air trying to block the broom she was no longer swinging at him. He didn’t know Daisy had stopped. All of his moving almost made Olivia Jean fall off the landing; his daughter had to plant herself in front of him, solidly, and not move. Olivia Jean was close enough to smell his body, which reeked of underarm musk and day-old pee. She wrinkled her nose and tried not breathing for seconds at a time.

Olivia Jean moved away once the broom rested at Daisy’s side. But she stayed near, trying not to glance at her mother’s face, since it was frightening when the older woman tightened her lips, raised her eyebrows, and sucked in her cheeks. Olivia Jean was scared of what would come next, but she wasn’t going to let Turk stand up to Daisy all by himself. He was her daddy, and even if Daisy did turn the broom on her, Olivia Jean was determined to take the beating. At ten years old, she loved Turk Stone with every ounce of heart she had in her thin body. And hated her mother with equal passion.

Daisy moved in close to Turk. She pointed a long finger at his chest. He had stopped twitching, but the eye he was able to keep open was streaked with red and the other was half-closed. He fell back against the wall.

“Damn, girl, stop slingin’ them things around. I can’t think straight watchin’ ’em titties jumpin’ at me all over the place. Close your robe,” Turk said.

“Turk, I ain’t playing with you, coming up in this house all hours of the night. You better stop this tomcatting around or I’ma stop you.” Her voice never rose. It whispered slick across the hallway. The righteousness of it made Olivia Jean tremble. Daisy turned with the broom and swished back into the apartment. The girl heard the dead bolt turn with a sharp click, and then Turk and Olivia Jean were alone in the hallway.

“Don’t worry, baby,” he said as he sank to the floor on the second step. Olivia Jean sat down by him. He laid his head on her lap. Again she held her breath, because he smelled. As soon as he fell asleep, so that his head became heavy on her lap and his mouth opened with one long inhale that became a gasp for air, he woke himself up. “She ain’t gonna stay mad. She let us in by day.” Olivia Jean counted to 3,563 before the door opened.

Now Daisy was in flannel pajamas buttoned up to the top.

“Next time, don’t get in the middle of grown-folk business.” Daisy didn’t meet Olivia Jean’s gaze. She held a half-smoked cigarette in one hand along with her favorite ashtray, the one she swore was good crystal given to them by a Mr. Shorty Long when she and Turk married. This was the same ashtray she would sometimes throw at him when he came home from work too late.

“This ashtray,” Daisy would say after each bout of throwing it at Turk, “is a testament to good, quality workmanship. The kind you don’t get these days.” There were dents in the wall and chipped linoleum on the floor from where Mr. Shorty Long’s present had landed, but never even a hairline fracture in the crystal itself. Olivia Jean didn’t know if it was a testament to good workmanship or just plain dumb luck that nothing had happened to it. She did know enough to stay out of the way when Daisy aimed at Turk, since Daisy didn’t have a good aim.

Holding the ashtray in one hand and the cigarette in the other, she twisted a thumb in Olivia Jean’s direction, her signal for Olivia Jean to hit the road, go to bed. It wasn’t easy moving Turk’s head from her lap. Daisy didn’t help, but Olivia Jean didn’t expect help from her.

When the girl crept out of bed the next morning and peeped in the stairwell, Turk was still there, a blanket thrown over him, now using Daisy for a pillow. Olivia went back into her bedroom, slammed the door, and got ready for school.

That night in late August as they slipped out of their apartment and down the stairs, Daisy made Turk carry his shoes so his footsteps were barely heard, but there were other noises coming from his body. Because he was so big and uncoordinated, when he walked down the stairs his shoulders bumped against the wall, and his breathing was loud, like a fish gasping for air.

Olivia followed him with her traveling bag, but not too close. She owned one suitcase, a pink one with a poodle on the front that had real hair and two glued-on pink barrettes. The suitcase kept bumping her legs as she walked down the narrow flight of stairs.

Daisy shored up the rear, and every few steps she told the other two to “hush up” as though Turk, a grown man, and Olivia Jean, a teenager, were children on a field trip. Daisy was dressed especially for sneaking out of their apartment; she wore a tan A-line dress cinched at the waist with a wide belt, a camel- colored scarf over her head, and big rhinestone-studded sunglasses. In the middle of the night. Olivia Jean wanted to ask about the sunglasses, but she already knew what her mother would say: “Olivia Jean, the first thing people notice about you is your clothes. You’ve got to learn how to make a good impression.”

Reading Group Guide

1. How does history repeat itself with the three women in Going Down South? What does Daisy inherit from Birdie, and Olivia Jean from Daisy and Birdie? How does this compare to the lessons and characteristics that have been passed down in your own family?

2. How would you describe Birdie and Olivia Jean’s relationship? Why is their relationship so different from Daisy and Birdie’s?

3. How would you describe the tension between Daisy and Olivia Jean? Daisy and Birdie? How is Olivia Jean’s relationship with Birdie different from the others?

4. Why do you think Shorty Long does not try to stop Daisy from leaving Cold Water Springs?

5. Turk desperately wants a son. Do you think this has to do with the era, or, in your experience, do most men still think they want sons? How, if at all, is Turk changed by being a grandfather? How has fatherhood changed the men in your life?

6. Olivia Jean has to make a momentous decision about whether or not to continue her pregnancy. How much of her choice is motivated by social climate in the early 1960s, and how much by her inability to appreciate the nature of the decision she was making? Do you think her decision would be different if she were a teenager today?

7. Why do Shorty Long and Birdie feel compelled to end their relationship? Can you imagine a way in which they might have stayed together?

8. How is Birdie changed by her time in jail? What do you think she learns in “the big house”?

9. How would you characterize Daisy’s relationship with the men in her life?

10. Why is Turk so important to Daisy? How does their relationship evolve? Do you see their marriage as successful?

11. Were you surprised by Percy Walker’s involvement in the women’s lives? Why do you think he disavows Olivia Jean when she goes to visit him?

12. What role does Lupe play in each of the women’s lives? Why is Daisy so wary of him?

13. Why do you believe Shorty Long insisted on having dinner with Daisy and Birdie every Sunday? Do you think he achieved what he intended to achieve? Why or why not?

14. How did your perceptions of each character change as the story progressed? Which of the women changes the most over the course of the novel?

15. Which of the three women do you relate to the most and why?

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Going down South 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
gypsyreads on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Going Down South by Bonnie J. GloverGoing Down South is the story of three generations of women with three generations worth of secrets. Birdie the matriarch of the family is a blue-black woman with a questionable background. Birdie¿s daughter Daisy, left Alabama at an early age never to return again, or so she thought. Olivia Jean, Daisy¿s daughter changed that with the realization that she is pregnant at 15. Daisy decides that she and her husband, Turk will take Olivia Jean to live with Birdie, whom Olivia Jean has never met. Once they reach Alabama, the plan changes. Secrets are revealed, feelings explained and relationships recovered.Bonnie J. Glover does an excellent job revealing the personality and history behind each of the three women. While men are very much present in this novel, the role they play is secondary at best. Men are discussed only in relation to one of the three lead characters. While Glover does not talk ad nauseum about the time period in which she is writing, she does a good job of conveying general feelings and social mores of the time. Going Down South will leave you feeling hopeful. If these three Black Alabama women could overcome all that had to and still find some semblance of peace, then what¿s stopping the next woman from doing it. Nothing.
readingrat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A story about three generations of women finding their strength and learning to love each other. The author did a wonderful job bringing her characters to life.
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jettaBN More than 1 year ago
This book is an amazing read and I read it in less than a day, it was that good. Olivia Jean, Daisy, Birdie and Turk were all likable and at times misunderstood. But in a good way, being brought up in the south I often heard stories of things like this happening and reading about Olivia was so refreshing, I would recommend this book to the young adults as well as the more mature readers. It teaches in a humorous and non judgemental way the lessons some of us are still struggling with today. Pick up a copy today and see for yourself, you won't regret it. I loved it and so will you.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
This is a story of women spanning three different generations. Olivia Jean is the apple of her daddy's eye and is praised by her mama for her good grades. Now, she's pregnant at fifteen. Her parents, Daisy and Turk, decide it's best for her to go down south and live with her grandma, Birdie, to hide their shame. Birdie isn't going to make it that easy, though. She gives them the ultimatum that Olivia Jean is welcome to stay, but only if Daisy stays, as well. Daisy hasn't been in contact with her mama for years and can't imagine how this will work. She figured this would be her chance to work on her relationship with Turk. After all, he doesn't come home for days at a time. What's he up to? These three women must learn to live together and be a family. All of them are harboring secrets that need to be revealed if they are ever going to learn to forgive, love, and move on with their lives. They must pull at their inner strengths in order to stand up for what's right and what they believe in. This endearing story is set in the 1960's and is full of moments that make the reader want to keep on reading. I found myself anxious to reach the ending just to see what happens. I highly recommend GOING DOWN SOUTH!
DarleneGinn-Hargrove More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
If you read Bonnie Glover's first book, The Middle Sister, you know that she has a fresh take on families. She writes about things we've read about a million times -- in the case of Going Down South, it's mother-daughter relationships -- in a way that's never been done. She knows that the love between mothers and daughters is of the greatest importance -- but boy, it's sure hard to get at sometimes. In this book, it takes Grandma Birdie to do it. And believe me, she is a primal force. I don't think you've ever read about a woman like Birdie. 'Unconventional' is way too conventional for her. She is just plain original. There's only one way to describe her: Read the book! (And the descriptions of Southern cooking are to die for.)
Guest More than 1 year ago
How well do your know your mother? How well do you know your daughter? That's the question raised in this beautiful second novel by Bonnie Glover. When Olivia Jean finds herself in the family way, her mother,Daisy, sends her 'down south' to stay with Birdie, Daisy's mother. After the long trek down south, Birdie announces that Daisy will have to stay with her daughter Olivia Jean. Three generations of women under one household slowly unveil their dark secrets and begin to see each other in a new way. This novel teaches us that all mothers love their children, be it in different ways, it teaches us that we all want a better life for our children, and that the road to motherhood is riddled with mistakes, but it is a road that is filled with joy. This book pulled me in from the very beginning, and it did what I think all great novels do: saddens you that the story has come to an end. It is a must read for women, especially mothers, as we struggle to raise our children the best way we know how. Get this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just finished Going Down South: This book was the most ¿feel good¿ read I¿ve experienced in a long time. From the first quirky and highly visual scene, the characters came alive and took me with them. Rich descriptions '¿stained glassed windows, but when you got up close you saw that some were only drawings of stained glass taped on top of windows held open by iron bars,¿' poignant similes '¿Charm oozed out of him like Karo syrup, heavy, smooth and sweet,¿ ' and real life metaphors '¿They were night and day, one a piece of bread, the other a thick pork chop with dripping gravy' make every page a sensory experience. Ms. Glover grounds the reader in familiar objects, '¿She¿d heard the poetry of Langston Hughes, stretched to Zora Neale Hurston, twisted to her mother¿s laughter,¿' oftentimes delivering the essence of a whole lifetime in one sentence '¿¿Daisy became Batman and Olivia Jean imagined herself as the old butler, Alfred Pennyworth.¿' Actually my favorite thing about this book is that it¿s a plethora of show-don¿t-tell. Though all a part of the story, the focus is not on race relations, spousal abuse, teenage pregnancy or abortion, it¿s on life lessons, relationships, and how we all learn and grow. It exudes a philosophy that we all learn from our mistakes, and oftentimes there is no one person or group to blame. This universal idea relates to all colors, ages, and socioeconomic groups. Going Down South is endearing coming-of-age novel that brings hope to women of all generations.