Passport: Florida: Guest Review: Cross Creek by Marjorie K Rawlings
Today it is our pleasure to welcome fellow blogger, Floridian, and awesome friend (and Noa’s BEA buddy) Karen of ‘For What it’s Worth‘ who very kindly offered to review by Marjorie K Rawlings – as Cross Creek is ‘right around the corner’ from her own home.
You can find Karen on her website – For What it’s Worth or on twitter – follow .
Karen, thank you so much for taking part in Passport: Florida!
Florida usually brings to mind sunshine, palm trees, amusement parks humidity and bugs. When the Dolls asked me to contribute to Passport to Florida week for some reason instead of the sunshine and fun aspect my mind grabbed onto the humidity and bugs angle.
I live in North Central Florida near the former homestead of Pulitzer Prize Winning author Marjorie K Rawlings and I thought this would give me a great opportunity to read about the people who made a home in the often hostile environment of the Florida backcountry before the days of air conditioning and other modern conveniences.
Rawlings’ most recognizable work is probably but I wanted to read , another of her notable books about her years living on her 72 acre orange grove. Cross Creek isn’t too far from where I live and has become a must see tourist destination for visitors to learn what life was like “back when”. A lot has changed over the years but that area remains much the same and largely undeveloped. Her former homestead is now a Historic State Park with tours of the gardens, home and nature trail. The is also a nearby restaurant named The Yearling that serves authentic Cracker Cuisine such as froglegs, Quail and Alligator. (sorry, but I’ll be skipping that meal)
In reading the book I hoped to get a snapshot of a time long ago and of a woman that had the strength and determination that it would take to make a home here.
Although Cross Creek is autobiographical, Rawlings turns most of her focus on to her neighbors and acquaintances. I never got a feel for who she was. I felt oddly detached from her experiences even though I recognized many of the places that she spoke of. She had moved to Cross Creek with her then husband and apparently they were having marital problems at the time. She mentions how much she needed the support and comfort of several of her neighbors and employees to make it through but I never got a sense of why exactly. It’s perfectly understandable that she wouldn’t want to air her personal laundry in a book that was meant to shed light not on her but the surroundings that stole her heart but I always felt a piece of the story was missing.
I can see why Marjorie K. Rawlings is a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist. Her prose is beautiful. Never more so than when she is describing the flora, fauna and creatures around her. I will never look at a Magnolia tree the same way again. Her description made them sound almost like sentient beings. It’s during these moments that Cross Creek is riveting and you get lost in the beauty of her words.
|Marjorie K Rawlings|
Now for the ugly side of the book, for me anyway. This was a time before the Civil Rights movement. I understand that times were different and white people owned black people and used the N word but I found it so difficult to read and to reconcile a woman who one moment was comparing black people to dogs then in the next moment giving generously of her time and money to help those very same people have a better life. Some of it can be attributed to the times and the way of thinking, but Rawlings was often extremely judgmental based solely on skin color or class. To her credit there were several occasions that she was ashamed by how she acted and went out her way to make things right. I believe that had she been born in a different time she would have been an ardent fighter for civil rights. She seemed to me a woman that just hadn’t been exposed to other people but was capable of learning and expanding her mind. I just found it difficult to read at times and wanted to smack her upside the head on several occasions.
There were a few relationships and stories about her neighbors that really touched my heart. Moe, the neighbor who had no money but made sure Rawlings’ orange grove flourished, secretly covering all the orange trees before a major freeze that wiped almost all the other groves in the area. In return, Marjorie sent a Dr. to Moe’s house when his daughter Mary was dying. They had a very special relationship based on mutual respect even though they came from very different backgrounds.
|Marjorie K Rawling’s
Geechee, who originally frightened her with her dark skin and savage looks, became more than an employee and a source of comfort to her during an illness and through hard times. Marjorie went above and beyond in her friendship with Geechee, even though it had a bittersweet conclusion.
Cross Creek is a beautifully written novel that depicts an era gone by but leaves the reader curious to know more about its author. It’s not always easy to read due to the social climate of the times but always full of love for a home and way of life that can only be described as difficult. This excerpt early on in the novel epitomizes what the area seems like to outsiders.
“I said, ‘Reckon you’re lost.’
‘Lost ain’t the word for it,’ he said. ‘Is this the end of the world? Where in God’s name am I?’
I said, ‘Mister, you’re at Cross Creek.’
‘That don’t tell me a thing,’ he said. ‘I still ain’t anywhere.’”
It’s funny, when I have visitors and we drive out that way to visit one of the many local springs or to show guest the “real Florida” I get the same reaction. Some things never change and for that I am thankful. It’s nice to know that Marjorie’s Cross Creek remains the same.