July 20, 2021
Genre/Categories: Christian Fiction, Southern Fiction, Complicated Family Drama, Coming of Age, Side of Romance
*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.
Thanks #NetGalley @TyndaleHouse for a complimentary eARC of #UndertheMagnolias upon my request. All opinions are my own.
In 1980 in Magnolia, South Carolina, a young teenager, Austin Foster, finds herself caring for her six siblings (all named after cities) when her mother dies in childbirth. Austin’s father is a preacher and works a tobacco farm, but he suffers from mental illness and is unreliable in many ways. Austin tries her best to keep the family fed and clothed and still attend school for a time. She has members of the community she can turn to, but no one really knows the extent of her hardships. Austin is attracted to Vance, the handsome son of a wealthy family in the community, and he is there for her when the truth of her circumstances is revealed.
Page-turning: Under the Magnolias is a compelling and beautifully-told story, and I was immediately pulled in by the descriptive writing and my concern for Austin and her family. The story moves along at a quick pace and is told from one perspective in a chronological timeline. The ending is filled with hope, love, healing, and acceptance.
Main Character: No child should have to bear responsibility for the welfare of the family, but at times children shoulder this burden. Austin is a hard worker, reliable, determined, responsible, and proud. She cares for her siblings and holds things together to the best of her ability. She loves her father and at times, he is able to provide some leadership but his mood swings prevent him from providing stability. Vance is a stable friend/boyfriend for Austin and helps her as best as he can and even provides encouragement and financial assistance as she transitions into young adulthood and considers her future.
Community: The most endearing theme in Under the Magnolias is the community understanding and acceptance of mental illness and the support that is there for Austin and her family when the truth finally comes out. The father is a generous and caring man at heart, and his acts of kindness throughout the years cause the community to rally around him now in his family’s greatest need. Because the father is a preacher, it’s the people of the church who play the greatest role in helping the family.
Themes: Thoughtful themes include mental illness, burdens that children carry, family hardships, determination, community support, perseverance, faith, poverty, family loyalty, coming of age, against the odds, and HOPE .
Recommended: I’m recommending Under the Magnolias for readers who appreciate family drama told from a Christian perspective, for fans of inspirational and determined young protagonists (coming of age), and for book clubs (looking for gritty Christian fiction). Even though this story ends on a note of HEA (happily ever after), the author prefers to think of the ending as HEA (hope ever after).
[Thanks for the recommendation Carla @ Carla Loves to Read.]
Content Considerations: death of a mother during childbirth, family hardships, mental illness (bi-polar), grief, poverty, children with disabilities
My Rating: 4 Stars
Meet the Author, T.I. Lowe
T.I. Lowe is an ordinary country girl who loves to tell extraordinary stories and is the author of nearly twenty published novels including her debut, LULU’S CAFÉ, a #1 bestseller. She lives with her husband and family in coastal South Carolina. Find her at Tilowe.com or on Facebook (T.I.Lowe), Instagram (Tilowe), and Twitter (@Tilowe).
Is Under the Magnolias on your TBR or have you read it?
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