Maggie Sweet

Maggie Sweet

by Judith Minthorn Stacy

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Maggie Sweet has had it! For nineteen years, she's kept house, raised a pair of battling twin daughters, put up with her frugal husband, Steven, humored his impossible mother, and kept her mouth shut. But when Steven spends their life savings on a cemetery plot, it's time for Maggie to take control.

With her twenty-year high school reunion just around the


Maggie Sweet has had it! For nineteen years, she's kept house, raised a pair of battling twin daughters, put up with her frugal husband, Steven, humored his impossible mother, and kept her mouth shut. But when Steven spends their life savings on a cemetery plot, it's time for Maggie to take control.

With her twenty-year high school reunion just around the corner and her long-lost high school boyfriend back in town, it's Maggie's turn to start turning heads. In the face of small-minded gossips, a surly family, and a meddling grandmother, Maggie must reach deep inside her Southern-housewife soul to become the woman she's always wanted to be.

Editorial Reviews

Jill McCorkle
Maggie Sweet is a strong Southern woman with the spit and wit to carve out her own style. Her story is both funny and tender.
Fred Chappell
Maggie Sweet is exactly what you think it might be'and yet it is nothing like you expect. Once it fixes its mascared gaze upon you, once the Jell-o salad does its green magic, once you hear in your head once more “Wake up Little Suzie” you are in its power till the end. At least I was and I'm no pushover. Judith Minthorn Stacy, you stole my heart away.
Michael Lee West
Maggie Sweet is a charming first novel with lively, endearing characters—not to mention lingerie parties, Harvey Wallbanger cakes, and shampoo-and-sets at the Curl & Swirl. Fans of Patty Jane's House of Curl will love it.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The eponymous protagonist of this homespun debut is a 38-year-old North Carolina housewife who has resigned herself to her boring, small-town existence until she suddenly realizes that she has been "sleepwalking," waiting for her husband (or someone else) to give her permission to make a "real life" on her own terms. Maggie has felt off-kilter since she broke up with her high school sweetheart, Jerry Roberts, and on the rebound married stiff, authoritarian Steven Presson, who had been her 10th grade biology teacher. Now the parent of bickering twin teenage daughters, Maggie feels she is little more than "homeroom mother and queen of the kitchen sink." The catalyst for change is Maggie's discovery that Steven has used their vacation money to buy side-by-side cemetery plots. Then she hears that Jerry will be in town for their upcoming 20th high school reunion. After a lifetime of obedience to family and society, Maggie suddenly realizes that she will never realize her dream of becoming a cosmetician, or of experiencing real love, unless she allows herself to step outside the boundaries and follow her heart. When Maggie reencounters Jerry, he is older, wiser and divorced, and the attraction between them is still potent. Maggie's transformations lead her to discover, and pursue, what she really wants: a career as a hairstylist, a new place to live and true love. By the novel's end, several characters have dramatically changed the course of their lives. Stacy has a light touch with her material, capturing the provincial ambiance of Poplar Grove, N.C., and populating Maggie's world with simple, chatty friends and quirky family members--who, however, sometimes veer toward caricature. While the theme of a woman rediscovering herself in midlife is familiar, this sweet-spirited book (winner of the publisher's 1999 Carolina Novel Award) offers a folksy, humorous depiction of growth and awakening in a Southern setting. (Sept.) FYI: Banks Channel's first Carolina Novel Award winner, How Close by Susan Kelly, was bought by Warner Books for $100,000 and reissued in 1998. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Humor-columnist Stacy's debut won the Carolina Novel Award, then was published in 1999 as a trade paperback (under the title Styles by Maggie Sweet) by Banks Channel Books. It's a sweet, charming story about a southern housewife who decides to follow her bliss, come hell or high water. Maggie Sweet Presson is piqued when her teacher husband, Steve, spends their vacation money on a cemetery plot for two. She's only 38, after all, and not even thinking about dying. Not that her life is particularly interesting. She takes care of her twin teenaged daughters: Amy, a straight-A student who dreams of escaping the small town of Poplar Grove, North Carolina, and Jill, a budding artist who creates chainsaw sculptures. Aside from that, Maggie cooks, cleans, and endures routine Saturday-night wrestling matches on the sofa with Steve-humdrum stuff for the daughter of Smilin' Jack Sweet, her ne'er-do-well, hard-drinking daddy who knew all about having a good time. Then-presto!-a former flame reappears: Jerry Roberts. He's tall, handsome, and kind. He supports her ambition to become a hairdresser at the Curl & Swirl. He listens to her. He takes her in his arms and rocks her world. Should she divorce dull-as-dishwater Steve and run off with Jerry? Maggie will at last make up her mind-and accept the happy consequences.

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Read an Excerpt

April 2, 1985

ATTENTION: "Aunt Sally Cares"
The Daily Ripple
Barium Springs, North Carolina

Dear Aunt Sally,
This is the first time I ever wrote to anyone for advice, but I have studied and studied, and I swear I don't know what else to do. Last night at supper my husband announced that he had taken our entire life savings and spent it on a family cemetery plot.

Aunt Sally, I'm only 38 years old. Why, just that morning I'd been thinking that when my girls graduate from high school this June maybe I could start to live a little. We had even talked about using that money for something fun, like a family vacation to Myrtle Beach. Just daydreaming about what we'd do with all that money really kept me going some days.

I never, in all my life, thought he was thinking about cemetery plots!

Well, to make a long story short, when he told me what he'd done, I got all torn up, right there at the kitchen table, in front of everyone.

The way I see it, he had no right to spend all that money without talking it over with me.

He said I should be relieved to know that I'd be taken care of for all of eternity.

I cannot tell you how discouraging those words were to me.

Now don't get me wrong; my husband is a good man. But when he told me I'd be spending all of eternity resting beside him at All Souls Cemetery, right here in Poplar Grove, North Carolina, I got slicing pains in my chest.

I always thought something was going to happen sooner or later. Now I keep thinking: what if this is all there is slam up to and even after death? An everlasting eternity of nothing ever happening but the sameold tired routine.

If this is true, I'm desperate. Please tell me what to do before it's too late.

The Teacher's Wife

Dear T. W.

It sounds to me like you think too much. You need to stay busy. Join the PTA, teach Sunday school, take up bingo. Get creative. Enclosed is a copy of The Joys Of Jell-O cookbook guaranteed to open up a whole new world of cuisine to you and your family. Perfect tiered Jell-O rings, multicolored ribbon salads, and scrumptious Jell-O strawberry pie. This will add so much excitement and variety to your life, you'll wonder how you got along without it. Especially when you see the looks of gratitude on your family's faces.

Remember you could do worse than to have a husband who knows where he's going in this world and the next. Believe me, I know.

Always remember Aunt Sally Cares.

Until recently I'd have called myself a typical small-town southern housewife.

You know, bored, but resigned to the whole thing.

But things just kept going from bad to worse until I couldn't hardly take it anymore. That's when I decided to write to Aunt Sally Cares in the Barium Springs Daily Ripple, who used to give good advice, but lately sounds more and more like some throwback to the fifties.

(I mean The Joys of Jell-O! You've got to be kidding! But what choice did I have? If I wrote to the Poplar Grove Expositor sure as shooting someone would have recognized me. To tell you the truth, it's almost impossible to have any secrets in a small town.)

It's easier to write to a paper over in Barium Springs since not a living soul over there knows me. It's also just close enough that if I was to run into anyone from home, I'd just say I was there for the Red Star Superette's grand opening two-for-one sale. It would never come to anyone that a person would drive that far for just a Ripple.

Well, after all that driving'it took three trips and about two tanks of gas before my letter appeared in the paper'Aunt Sally gave me the same advice my own Mama Dean would have given me right here at home, for free.

Still, it was weirdest thing. Aunt Sally's advice had no sooner appeared in the evening paper than my telephone started ringing right off the wall. All at once I'd gone from bored to being busier than a one-armed paperhanger.

First, my best friend, Mary Price Bumbalough, called to tell me that our high school class was having its twentieth reunion this summer. Mary Price's phone call shook me up but good, 'cause from what she said, all of our old classmates are leaving home, taking lovers, and seem to know how to live.

So there I was standing in my very own kitchen, talking on my very own phone with Mary Price going on and on about the reunion, when it suddenly came to me like a flash. There is more to life than collecting Tupperware and keeping the sourdough alive and every one of my old classmates already knew it. I was the only one who was sleepwalking through life.

I wondered if it was because I'd stayed behind in Poplar Grove, while the rest of them had seen the world. Why, they'd lived in cities like Raleigh, Winston-Salem, Charlotte'you name it.

Of course, Mary Price never got out of Poplar Grove either and she still lives an exciting life. But then that's Mary Price. Not only does she have a house, a husband, and two kids, she and Hoyt sing and play country music every weekend at the That'lldu Bar & Grill. She's also taken to parading all over town dressed in cowgirl outfits complete with hats and boots. When I told her people were starting to talk about her she just laughed. Mary Price is absolutely fearless.

The more I thought about Mary Price and Hoyt and everyone else who graduated with me, the more I wanted to add some excitement to my own life. But I swanee, what with one thing and another, I just wasn't sure how to get started. I mean, just how far can a nice Methodist girl from Poplar Grove, North Carolina, go?

Especially, when you consider all the obstacles in my way.

First, there's my husband Steven. Steven is a high school biology teacher who makes love only when his vas tubes are blocked. The only time he spent money like a drunken sailor was when he bought the cemetery plots.

Next, there are my twin teenage daughters, Amy and Jill.

Amy is a clean, wholesome, honor-roll student. She wears a smooth shoulder-length bob, cultured pearls, and preppy clothes. Her goal in life is to get into an expensive college, marry someone worthy of her, and leave tacky us and tacky Poplar Grove far behind. Why, even Mama Dean, her great-grandmother, says Amy's got more airs than an

Meet the Author

Judith Minthorn Stacy, a native of Michigan, married a Southerner right out of high school, had four children, and at various times worked as a salesclerk, a waitress, and a respiratory therapist. She does not style hair. A humor columnist for several newspapers, she has published articles in national women's magazines and regional anthologies. She and her husband ilve in Mooresville, North Carolina. Maggie Sweet is her first novel.

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