LITERATURE

The Life She Wished to Live: A Biography of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Author of The Yearling

Norton. Apr. 2021. 448p. ISBN 9780393353495. $35. LIT
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Writer McCutchan’s (Marcel Moyse: Voice of the Flute) biography of the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Yearling is both an exploration of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’s life and inspirations and an insightful look at the ups and downs of the creative process. McCutchan reveals American journalist and writer Rawlings (1896–1953) as an iconoclast who shunned traditional female roles and modes of behavior, to the disappointment of her ambitious and controlling mother. Inheriting her father’s desire for farm life, Rawlings purchased a Florida orange grove in her early thirties, immersing herself in the culture and dialect of her rural neighbors and shaping her fiction around the theme of our uneasy coexistence with nature. Drawing upon Rawlings’s abundant surviving correspondence, McCutchan doesn’t shy away from exposing the temperamental behavior that often strained her subject’s relationships with friends and lovers, or the frequent mood swings—exacerbated by illness and excessive drinking—that complicated her work habits. McCutchan balances this by showing how Rawlings encouraged and inspired fellow writers, recognized and wrestled with her own racial prejudices, and became an advocate for conservation.
VERDICT A comprehensive, well-researched portrait of the life of Rawlings and her creative struggles that will engage a variety of readers.

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