John and Mary Margaret
We first meet Susan Cushman's characters, John and Mary Margaret, in her short story collection, Friends of the Library. In her second novel and seventh book, Cushman fleshes out their stories, covering over fifty years of their lives in Mississippi and Memphis against the backdrop of the civil rights movement and continuing through current-day events.
John and Mary Margaret is an insider's look into the White-privilege bubble of a young girl growing up in Jackson, Mississippi, and participating in sorority life on the Ole Miss campus in the late 1960s. But it's also a candid portrayal of a young Black boy from Memphis who follows his dream to study law at the predominately White university. What happens when their shared love for literature blossoms into an ill-fated romance? Set squarely in the center of decades of historical events in Mississippi and Memphis, here their story brings those events to life.
John and Mary Margaret is both a heartbreaking and heartwarming story. This book touches on Alzheimer, Parkinson, and Lewy body dementia diseases. Yet, in a thoughtful way. The story also featured social and racial injustice. Which really makes this book very relevant for present day.
John and Mary only spent time together briefly in the beginning and for most of the book, they did not interact or meet each other again until years later. Yet, I feel there was a strong connection between them; despite the distance.
While it is a short book, I found myself taking my time reading it. This is because I was savoring every moment. This is a five star recommended read for me.