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     A Southern Memoir Full of Truths, Half Truths and Outright Lies
         Snapshots of a Childhood in the Plantation South

by Christina Jacqueline Johns


In these stories about a small Southern cotton mill town, its history and the histories of the people who live there, Christina Jacqueline Johns conjures into being a little world of interconnected lives, intergenerational stories and complicated family relationships.






This Month's Posted Review from
               Historic St. Marys Magazine

Barbara Ryan's Review
December 2010
Literarily Speaking 
 

Love Stories for Wilkes Ferry

By Christina Jacqueline Johns

 

People who have lived in a small southern town will quickly immerse themselves into the intermingled lives in Dr. Christina Johns’ collection of tales about life in a small cotton mill town in Georgia. People who have never lived in a small southern town will recognize the eccentricities that such authors as William Faulkner infused in characters he brought to life in books that have become a mainstay of southern literature. To compare Dr. Johns writing with Faulkner’s does Johns a bit of disservice. While Faulkner’s characters often border on caricatures, Dr. Johns’ characters are more believable even in their most outlandish full selves.

 

Character development is part science and part art. What’s interesting about Dr. Johns’ characters is that though you don’t spend the time with them as you would in a full-length topical novel, you know them still—such is Johns’ master craftsmanship.

 

Johns introductory paragraph sets you up: “This is a memoir of a sort. But it’s the kind of memoir Southerners write. In other words, it’s full of truths, half-truths, shadings of the truth, and outright lies. It’s tall tales and what wasn’t the truth but should have been.”

 

Though Johns tells us, “Southerners are just naturally drawn to embroidery,” you’re convinced from the outset that the words on Johns’ pages are the gospel truth because they are coming from the memory. She warns you that, “memory is the biggest liar of all.” And yet, you will choose to set aside all Johns’ seemingly warning notes to take her writings with a grain of salt. By the time you’ve finished reading “Love Stories for Wilkes Ferry,” there will be no doubt in your mind that Joe Ed Montgomery, Margaret Ann Patterson, and Miss Mary Francis and all the other characters that comprise Johns’ eclectic collection are as real as real can be. You’ll be swept up in mini drama after mini drama, often laughing, sometimes cringing, and—if you are a southerner—angsting a bit at Johns’ rendition of Sherman’s merciless take of the area during the Civil War.

 

“Love Stories for Wilkes Ferry” begs to be read on a wide front porch in the company of twinkling lightening bugs and the sweet scent of honeysuckle and newly mown grass.

 

Wilkes Ferry, it seems, is a “great place to get rid of your wife,” as evidenced by Johns’ account. 

 

“Come to Wilkes Ferry, the best place in Georgia to kill your wife,” Johns writes should be the town’s advertising campaign. “In and out in six weeks. No questions asked.” 

 

Is the storyteller simply seeing stories where no stories exist? Or is there reason to think that there’s a little something off kilter about a doctor’s wife dying of flu in her own home?

 

While the whole of the book is certainly not considered a “mystery” by genre, there is much mystery in the comings and goings of the people of Wilkes Ferry. Johns tells all. With much color. With much grace. And with as much truth as can be mustered up by someone who’s not totally opposed to “revisionist history,” as long as it lends a good story.

 

Seventy-one intriguing stories, inter-related by the threads of kinship, friendship, and even enmity, fill the pages of Johns’ richly woven book. “This is a work of fiction,” reads a disclaiming paragraph at the front of the book. We think not. We know these people about whom Dr. Johns writes. They, or versions of their characters, are most definitely alive here in South Georgia. We shall wait patiently for Dr. Johns to conjure up another collection of tales about life in the South. Maybe next time, it will be described as a collection of stories about people in a small “paper mill” town.

 

Editor’s Note: Dr. Christina Jacqueline Johns resides in Woodbine, Georgia, just a few miles north of St. Marys. She holds a Ph.D. in criminology and has taught criminology at University of Edinburgh in Edinburgh, Scotland, and at George Washington University and University of Alaska. Her stories and commentaries have been broadcast on National Public Radio, and her plays have been performed at the annual Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Johns’ wrote last year’s script for the Crooked Rivers production, and she appears as a professional storyteller at various local venues.



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Love Stories for Wilkes Ferry
                                   

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