Women of grace and gumption bloom in the pages of Kaye Gibbons's fiction: The title character of Ellen Foster, her debut novel, was dubbed by Walker Percy "a southern Holden Caulfield." A Virtuous Woman prompted Reynolds Price to write, "Kaye Gibbons shows us the secret core of a love that easily outlasts death." And in A Cure for Dreams, wrote Josephine Humphreys, Gibbons "reveals how men's ways require [the] courage of women." In this, her fourth novel in six years, she gives life to her most passionate and tough-minded women yet: Charlie Kate, out of nineteenth-century rural North Carolina, a self-proclaimed doctor who treats everything -- leprosy, malaria, even lovesick blues -- with her roots and herbs, and advises the adolescent girls she "caught" at birth that "kissing's fine, nothing more than uptown shopping on downtown business." Sophia, her daughter, who has inherited her mother's singular wisdom and will, putting them in service to her desire to control the world around her and land the man of her choice. Margaret, the narrator, Charlie Kate's granddaughter, whose struggle toward adulthood is complicated by the home-front demands of World War II and whose longing to defy heredity leads her to the happy discovery that for her, too, passion is the natural and most blessed gift. Here, in Charms for the Easy Life, a timeless story of three generations of fiery women, Kaye Gibbons proves once again that, as Elizabeth Spencer has said, "she knows how to speak to our hearts."
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