Under the Magnolias

Tyndale House. May 2021. 384p. ISBN 9781496453600. $26.99. CF
In 1980s Magnolia, SC, Austin Foster is one of seven siblings (one of whom has a physical disability and one of whom has an intellectual disability). When her mother dies in childbirth, Austin must grow up quickly. Her Pa has undiagnosed mental illness and manic episodes that the family works hard to hide. Pa is a tobacco farmer and self-appointed/third-generation preacher of “First Riffraff of Magnolia.” Add in the usual teen stressors (school, first love), and Austin finds herself unable to do much more than simply survive each day. Lowe’s (“Carolina Coast” series) book acknowledges that one can be a Christian who struggles with their own demons. Each of the family members is struggling in some way; the most flawed winds up being the one who shows the greatest kindness to everyone else. Pa attempts suicide twice, and Austin finds him each time. Ultimately, her tale is about finding a way to move forward. With the exception of Jinx and Foxy, members of the church’s congregation who are Black, all the characters are white.
VERDICT While Pa and Austin’s faith plays a large part in the book, the novel will likely have readership outside of Christian fiction fans. Recommended for fiction collections.
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