Savannah Comes Undone
Denise Hildreth Jones, author of SAVANNAH FROM SAVANNAH, returns with another tongue-in-cheek, highly entertaining fictional account of those pampered residents ranking in the higher society of Savannah, Georgia. Newly hired reporter Savannah Phillips is mortified when she learns that her always socially conscious mother, Victoria Phillips, the former Miss Georgia United States of America (doesn't that say it all?), is chained to the monument of the Ten Commandments in the center of town. Sensing that this very visible and quite likely socially degrading stance may affect her family's standing, Savannah reacts with abject mortification. Savannah's brother consoles her with the thought that now she has a story to write, a personal, familial drama, in fact.
Contemplating this turn of events, Savannah's mood sours when she realizes that for every hour her mother spends chained to the monument, life at home will sputter and stop. Meals, clean clothes, and a tidy house all fail to function without the ultimate competent mother at the helm. Convinced that her mom will never survive the elements --- weather notwithstanding, but going without all the required perks every socially refined Southern woman takes for granted --- Savannah is surprised to witness her mother's inner-strength to stay at the task at hand for reasons of principle. Days and nights pass, and Savannah watches in awe at how fervently devoted her mother is to this personal cause. Savannah, on the other hand, finds herself, her inner self, lacking and is frequently defensive toward anyone who offers a mild suggestion that she take another look.
With a new job to adjust to, a handsome co-worker who won't take "no" for an answer, and an old flame who is now marrying another woman, Savannah's nerves are about as jangled as they could be. She frets and stews and tries to make sense of her mother's sudden willingness to risk being "seen" without all the accompanying frills in order to make a public point. With her Kate Spade mules and other nameworthy gifts from her mom, Savannah wrestles again and again with life choices and letting go of the past. In short, Savannah is thrust into growing up. The key question is: Does Savannah want to grow up, or will she stay put in her childhood fantasyland of being catered, pampered and indulged? Tempting as it might be, Savannah, ever so slowly, allows life's hardships to penetrate, and when it does, emotions run wild.
Hildreth combines all the comedic savvy required in this high-drama life of Savannah Phillips. She exaggerates Savannah's woes, yet does so in a way that readers will find humorous and sort of sad. Readers likely will not relate to Savannah so much as pity her shallowness and then applaud her baby steps toward maturity. In the process, female readers will ask themselves a few questions about seeing past the outside of a person and quizzing their own hearts about how much they'd be willing to step outside their comfort zone in the name of right and wrong. Clearly, for this interesting collage of Southern folk, the very word "comfort" needs to be redefined, yet there's a message here for everyone.
Reviewed by Michele Howe on August 9, 2005