Going Down South: A Novel

Paperback | July 29, 2008

byBonnie 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

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From the Publisher

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...

From the Jacket

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...

Format:PaperbackDimensions:272 pages, 8 × 5.15 × 0.6 inPublished:July 29, 2008Publisher:Random House Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0345480910

ISBN - 13:9780345480910


Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Story! Going Down South is one of my favorite books this year. I really enjoyed it. This story is about three generations of women in a family-Birdie, Daisy and Olivia Jean-all head strong and stubborn in their own way. It's such a strong story about the connections between mothers and daughters-the good, the bad, and the stuff that ultimately keeps you together. It's set in the South in the 60's and touches on so many issues: color, teen pregnancy, and relationships. The story is told from the point of view of all of the women and it goes back and forth from the past to the present but doesn't leave you feeling confused, just more understanding of the story itself. I loved Olivia Jean from the start-she's a sweet girl who works hard in school. Her relationship with her parents leaves her wanting so much more. For her parents it seems, all that is in their world is each other. Ultimately, Olivia Jean ends up pregnant. I think she was just craving the attention and it ended up being the wrong kind. A quote from Olivia Jean that I really liked and shows really how she was feeling was...and this comes from a time when she's asked if she knows how to be a mother... 'No, but I do know how not to be one. I've seen that firsthand. And I do know what I have to give this baby: patience. I have more than mama does, lots more love, lots more time.'---pg 58 Birdie I loved from when I first met her. She's a strong woman and she has plans of putting her family back together. I think she was very well aware that the problems of the family stemmed down through the generations and they needed to be fixed before it was too late again. One of my favorite parts is when Birdie invites Daisy to mud wrestle with her to get out their frustrations of being mad at each other. It was amusing but really it was a huge part as it was a turning point for the women to begin mending their relationship. Finally Daisy, she is Birdie's daughter and Olivia Jean's mother. In the beginning of this book I really didn't like her. I also really didn't know her yet. As the story progresses we learn so much more about Daisy and then the reasons for some of her actions become more clear-still not right but at least they make more sense. I loved all the women but I think Daisy came the furthest in terms of healing and going forward-she went from someone I didn't like to someone I genuinely cared for by the end of the novel. For Daisy's, her intense love for Turk was crazy to the point of making her daughter suffer for it. This passage from Daisy really sums up for me her growth... 'She looked out the window past the small dirt yard and to the horizon, watching the moon. And she thought of the journey the Earth made each day, twenty-four endless hours around the sun. And there were the things that happened on Earth, the love, the hatred, the petty jealousies, and then the peace that came after all the drama finished. The peace that God promised, the one that surpassed all the understanding and she knew that she had it. All her secrets were out in the open. That was her peace. She no longer had to hold on to anyone, man or woman.' ---pg 239-240 All of the women in this novel learned something about themselves and about how their lives had been affected by the men that they had been with. These women change throughout the story to finally come together in the end as the family they are meant to be. The author has written this book in a way that draws us into the characters lives so completely. She has made them so real. I missed them so much when I closed the cover on the last page. I wanted more, I wanted to know what would happen to each and every one of them in the future. This novel would make a great book club pick. There is just so much going on to discuss. There is also reading group questions and topics for discussion in the back of the book along with a conversation with Bonnie.
Date published: 2008-11-30

Extra Content

Read from the Book

Part One Olivia JeanHer 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.”

Bookclub 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?