Nora, Nora

( 14 )

Overview

It is summer, 1961, and Lila Lee Bayliss, motherless since birth and now 13, doesn't quite know what to make of Nora Findlay. Nora smokes, swears, wears short shorts, and when she listens, she looks at you as if she's never heard a human voice before. She also laughs a lot, something that's been missing for a long time in the Bayliss household, and she seems to have done just about everything fun there is to do in the world. Soon, even Lila's somber father is humming while he shaves. When Nora takes a teaching ...
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Nora, Nora: A Novel

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Overview

It is summer, 1961, and Lila Lee Bayliss, motherless since birth and now 13, doesn't quite know what to make of Nora Findlay. Nora smokes, swears, wears short shorts, and when she listens, she looks at you as if she's never heard a human voice before. She also laughs a lot, something that's been missing for a long time in the Bayliss household, and she seems to have done just about everything fun there is to do in the world. Soon, even Lila's somber father is humming while he shaves. When Nora takes a teaching job at the local high school, it seems like she might stay on in Lytton forever, despite her outlandish ways and the snide comments made about her by some of the neighbors. As time foes on, Lila begins to realize that underneath Nora's high-spirited, feisty fa&#231ade, something is troubling her, something from her past. And though Nora has tried to run away from the life she had before, a secret follows her, on that is so shocking, it will stun the residents of this small, segregated town and forever change the life of young Lila. The mesmerizing story of an independent woman caught in a provincial place and time, Nora, Nora is destined to become Anne Rivers Siddons's biggest hit yet
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble Guide to New Fiction
Set in the summer of 1961, this Siddons novel pairs a young teenager who lost her mother at birth with her "worldly wise" thirty-something aunt.
Atlanta Journal Constitution
A skillful storyteller...Siddons does what she does best and delivers kings-sized conflict in hypnotic surroundings.
Journal Constitution Atlanta
A skillful storyteller...Siddons does what she does best and delivers kings-sized conflict in hypnotic surroundings.
Library Journal
When Peyton learns that her cousin Nora is coming to stay with her and her father for a time, Peyton resolves to find a way to avoid actually meeting this unwelcome stranger. But Nora, flamboyant and outspoken, has the entire town of Lytton, GA, in a flurry before she has a chance to park her pink convertible, and Peyton and her father find themselves suddenly living a life filled with more love, more fun, and more joy. Before long, though, everything Nora does seems to outrage the residents of this small, early 1960s town. An excessive abridgment at the beginning of this production leaves the listener wondering about Peyton's motives. The complete version [from HarperAudio and Recorded Books, among others] fills in the gaps, revealing that Peyton's fear of being unloved is only exceeded by her fear of growing up. Debra Monk's performance is unobtrusive and smooth, her gentle Southern accent adding atmosphere without being overpowering. This book is enjoying a great deal of popularity and is well worth acquiring; however, this reviewer would recommend one of the unabridged programs.--Adrienne Furness, Genesee Community Coll., Batavia, NY Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061093333
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 7/28/2001
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 480
  • Product dimensions: 4.18 (w) x 6.75 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Anne Rivers Siddons

Anne Rivers Siddons's bestselling novels include Nora, Nora; Sweetwater Creek; Islands; and Fox's Earth. She is also the author of the nonfiction work John Chancellor Makes Me Cry. She and her husband divide their time between Charleston, South Carolina, and Brooklin, Maine.

Biography

Born in 1936 in a small town near Atlanta, Anne Rivers Siddons was raised to be a dutiful daughter of the South -- popular, well-mannered, studious, and observant of all the cultural mores of time and place. She attended Alabama's Auburn University in the mid-1950s, just as the Civil Rights Movement was gathering steam. Siddons worked on the staff of Auburn's student newspaper and wrote an editorial in favor of integration. When the administration asked her to pull the piece, she refused. The column ran with an official disclaimer from the university, attracting national attention and giving young Siddons her first taste of the power of the written word.

After a brief stint in the advertising department of a bank, Siddons took a position with the up and coming regional magazine Atlanta, where she worked her way up to senior editor. Impressed by her writing ability, an editor at Doubleday offered her a two-book contract. She debuted in 1975 with a collection of nonfiction essays; the following year, she published Heartbreak Hotel, a semi-autobiographical novel about a privileged Southern coed who comes of age during the summer of 1956.

With the notable exception of 1978's The House Next Door, a chilling contemporary gothic compared by Stephen King to Shirley Jackson's classic horror novel The Haunting of Hill House, Siddons has produced a string of well-written, imaginative, and emotionally resonant stories of love and loss -- all firmly rooted in the culture of the modern South. Her books are consistent bestsellers, with 1988's Peachtree Road (1988) arguably her biggest commercial success. Described by her friend and peer, Pat Conroy, as "the Southern novel for our generation," the book sheds illuminating light on the changing landscape of mid-20th-century Atlanta society.

Although her status as a "regional" writer accounts partially for Siddons' appeal, ultimately fans love her books because they portray with compassion and truth the real lives of women who transcend the difficulties of love and marriage, family, friendship, and growing up.

Good To Know

Although she is often compared with another Atlanta author, Margaret Mitchel, Siddons insists that the South she writes about is not the romanticized version found in Gone With the Wind. Instead, her relationship with the region is loving, but realistic. "It's like an old marriage or a long marriage. The commitment is absolute, but the romance has long since worn off...I want to write about it as it really is: I don't want to romanticize it."

Siddons' debut novel Heartberak Hotel was turned into the 1989 movie Heart of Dixie, starry Ally Sheedy, Virginia Madsen, and Phoebe Cates.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Sybil Anne Rivers Siddons (full name)
    2. Hometown:
      Charleston, South Carolina and a summer home in Maine overlooking Penobscot Bay
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 9, 1936
    2. Place of Birth:
      Atlanta, Georgia
    1. Education:
      B.A., Auburn University, 1958; Atlanta School of Art, 1958

Read an Excerpt

Peyton McKenzie changed her name when she was six years old, on the first day of her first year in elementary school. For all her short life she had been called Prilla or sometimes Priscilla, her first name, the latter usually when she was In Trouble, but that stopped with rocklike finality when the first scabby classmate began to chant, "Prilla, Prilla, mother-killer." By the time the entire first grade in the Lytton Grammar School had taken up the refrain, Peyton McKenzie had been born, and there was no chance at all that she would return to the womb.

"It's a man's name, for heaven's sake, Priscilla," her Aunt Augusta said in exasperation for the fourth or fifth time, after Peyton's father had given up on her. "What's wrong with 'Priscilla'? It's a lovely name. Generations of your mama's family have named their daughters Priscilla. I believe the first was Priscilla Barnwell, who came over to Virginia well before the American Revolution. You should be proud."

"Peyton is my middle name," Peyton muttered. "It's as much mine as Priscilla." Both she and Augusta McKenzie knew there would be no changing of Peyton's mind, but Augusta saw it as her duty as the dominant woman in Peyton's life to do battle with the granite streak of willfulness in her niece. On the death of Peyton's mother at her birth, Frazier McKenzie had tacitly placed the day-to-day shaping and pruning of his daughter in his sister-in-law's hands. By the time of Peyton's first great rebellion, aunt and niece were old and experienced adversaries. Each knew the other's strengths and vulnerabilities. Augusta McKenzie knew full well she wasn't going to win this one. But she would never know why, because Peytonnever told anyone about the cold, whining little chant at school that morning, not until much later, and none of the other children would tell, either. Her beleaguered teacher soon forgot about the name change entirely. She was the first in a long procession of teachers to forget about Peyton McKenzie for long stretches of time.

Only Peyton remembered, each day of her life and deep in her smallest cell, that she had, indeed, killed her mother. If her father never so much as hinted to her that he held her undistinguished being responsible for the extinguishing of the radiant flame her mother had been, Peyton put it down to Frazier McKenzie's natural reticence. He had been, all her life, as politely remote as a benign godparent. He was so with everyone, except Peyton's older brother, Buddy. When Buddy died in an accident in his air-force trainer, when Peyton was five, Frazier McKenzie closed up shop on his laughter, anger, small foolishnesses, and large passions. Now, at twelve, Peyton could remember no other father than the cooled and static one she had. Her father seemed to remember her only intermittently.

She told the Losers Club about the name change on a February day when it seemed as if earth and air and sky were all made of the same sodden gray cloth. It happens sometimes in the Deep South when winter can no longer muster an honest cold but will not admit the warm tides of spring lapping at the gates. It is a climatic sulk, not a great tantrum, and like any proper sulk it can last for days and even weeks, exhausting spirits and fraying nerves and sucking open hearts with its sluggish tongue. Ernie had been so petulant that Boot had told him to shut up if he didn't have anything to add to the day's litanies of inanities and abasement. Even Boot seemed more dutiful than enthusiastic over his contribution to the club's itinerary, a lusterless account of wiping out the Canaday children's hopscotch grid with his orthotic boot.

"Well, if I couldn't do better than that, I just wouldn't say anything," Ernie sniffed, affronted. Ernie was plagued this day by demons. His small shed was so humid that the lone window was sweated over and the pages of his copy of The Inferno, laid casually with its title up on his bookcase, were glued together. His overalls stuck to him, and his thinning, spindrift hair frizzed with the damp, and he was starting a sinus infection. He had also forgotten to return his mother's library books.

"You ain't said anything," Boot pointed out. "And I jes' as soon you didn't. You as mean as an old settin' hen today. Peyton gon' have to come up with something really fine to make up for you."

Two pairs of cool eyes turned toward her. Peyton, who had planned to recount the deliberate serving to her of the last helping of tepid turnip greens in the school lunch line while a steaming pot of spaghetti and meat sauce awaited those behind her, swiftly changed her mind.

"I killed my mother," she said, her heart beating hard with the sheer daring of it, and the first opening of the pit of that old pain. The others were silent, looking at her. She looked back, feeling for an instant only the heedless joy of a great coup.

"You ain't, neither," Boot said finally.

"You flatter yourself," Ernie said.

But they knew they were bested by a long shot.

"I did, too," Peyton said. "She died not a day after I was born. She bled to death. Everybody knows that. I've always known it."

"Then why didn't you say?" Boot asked. He was having a hard time relinquishing his sultancy of humiliation.

"You'd have only said I was showing off. Ernie, you did say it. And not only did I kill her, but when I was in first grade I changed my name to Peyton because the kids were singing a song about 'Prilla, Prilla, mother-killer,' and I made it stick, too..."

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Reading Group Guide

About this Book
"I set this story back in my own dreaming, small-town South, in my own time, 1961: that suspended time swung between two epochs that shaped America for good and all. I think I chose it because that turbulent transition was the greatest epiphany of my life, a crossing from the sweet, insular world I knew to another one, volatile and frightening and yet entirely necessary and right."
Raised by her emotionally distant, widowed father, and their housekeeper, Peyton McKenzie has become a shy tomboy with a terrible secret. Her only outlet is The Losers' Club, where she and her fellow outcasts top one another with their day's humiliations. Though she knows it can't go on forever, Peyton is not ready to give up her only source of friends. At the cusp of becoming a woman, young Peyton is desperate to hold onto her childhood. Her prim Aunt Augusta, however, thinks it is high time she became a proper young Southern lady, and is about to introduce Peyton to the hateful world of hair stylists and party dresses. And then Peyton's long lost cousin, Nora, blows into town driving a hot pink convertible, and proceeds to turn the sheltered world of Lytton, Georgia, on its head. The Civil Rights Movement has passed Lytton by, and Nora, fresh from a wild life on the road, is hell-bent on shaking things up. She is a blast of fresh air, revitalizing the entire McKenzie household, and captivating the young Peyton. But Nora is a dangerous role model. She, too, has a dark secret in her past. When the truth is revealed, it stuns the quiet town, and teaches Peyton the necessity, and the price, of love. DiscussionQuestions
  1. What role does Nana play in Peyton's life? Does she have special powers, or is she simply losing her mind? What is The Sight? Why does Nana fear Nora? Is she right to do so? Does your opinion of Nana change through the course of the novel?
  2. Why do you think desegregation has passed Lytton by? How has the Civil Rights movement impacted the town? In what ways is the McKenzie household a part of the changing times, and in what ways is it still a holdover from earlier days?
  3. How would you characterize Peyton's relationship with Boot? Why do you think she never plays with him when he visits her kitchen?
  4. What does Peyton derive from her membership in The Losers' Club? Do you think the Club's practice of competing for the title of "Loser" is healthy? How does Nora's arrival in town effect the Club? What ultimately causes the Club to fall apart? When does Peyton no longer need the Club?
  5. When Peyton emerges from the bathroom stall at Rich's, having vomited all over her new dress, she encounters a malevolent stare from a black bathroom attendant. Peyton wants to shout, "This is not me; don't think I'm like this! They did this to me, but I can undo it all . . . " What does she mean by, "this is not me"? Can Peyton, "undo it all"? What does Peyton learn about? race relations from her cousin Nora?
  6. What is your first impression of Nora? Do you trust her? Does your opinion of her change through the course of the novel? How so? What sort of a role model is she for Peyton? When we first meet Nora, her voice is described as, "slow and rich as cooling fudge, with a little hill of laughter in it." Does that description make sense to you? What aspect of Nora does it capture?
  7. Peyton, her father, and Nora each have a terrible secret in their past. How does each of them cope differently? To whom do they confide? What price do they pay for keeping their secrets? What price do they pay when they are revealed? What might they have done differently?
  8. What parallels are there between Nora, Nora and Siddons's earlier novel, Peachtree Road? How is Nora like Lucy Bondurant? How is she different? How does Nora avoid Lucy's fate? In what ways does Peyton resemble Sheppard Gibbs Bondurant III? How do both novels depict the Civil Rights Movement? Why do you think Siddons chose to write a second novel about Atlanta, Georgia in the early 1960's? Do you think Siddons' attitudes have changed since she wrote Peachtree Road twelve years ago?
  9. What do you think Siddons means when she describes the time period of Nora, Nora as being, "a crossing from the sweet, insular world I knew to another one, volatile and frightening and yet entirely necessary and right"? Is she speaking of Peyton's journey, or America's? Or both?
  10. Why does Peyton replay her family's home movies when she is upset? How do they soothe her? When are the films no longer enough to comfort her?
  11. Is Frazier McKenzie a good father? In what ways does he succeed as a single parent? How does he fail? How does he change during Nora's stay? What does Nora teach him about love?
  12. How do you feel about Nora's use of foul language? Why do you think Siddons gives her such a dirty tongue? What does Nora's obscenities tell about her character? How do the residents of Lytton react to her language?
  13. What does Nana mean when she says to Peyton, "you've never been in charge of your own life. They haven't let you"? Who are "they"? Does Peyton ever take charge of her own life? If so, when?
  14. Nana predicts that Peyton posses a "power." What do you think that power is? Does Peyton ever begin to exercise her power? What are the obstacles that lie in her path?
  15. Peyton interprets the film, "On the Beach" to mean, "that everybody always loses everybody they love, but they need to do it, anyway, because . . . there isn't anything else." Does her analysis apply to her own life? To Frazier and Nora's life? How so? What is the price these three characters pay for loving?
  16. When Peyton learns the truth about her mother's life and death, what impact does it have on her? Was Nora right to tell her?
  17. How does Peyton find her voice as a writer? What are the steps that lead her to the completion of her graduation speech? What insights do we learn about Siddons through watching her character discover the joys of writing? The delivery of her speech is a disaster. Do you think her failure will deter her from writing in the future? Why, or why not?
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 14 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 14 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2002

    Anne Rivers Siddons connects

    This author helps the reader to connect with the characters and the experiences they are living. I would like to know when another book by Anne comes out? zoya

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2013

    this book sucked

    it was not worth the money

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  • Posted May 15, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    An amazing story about life.

    I don't even know where to begin with this book. The writing was excellent, the story was so good, the themes in the story were so important (and so well handled), and it was very enjoyable.

    I loved Nora. She just didn't care, but at the same time she cared so much. I know that sounds weird but I don't know how else to describe her. She stood up for herself, and prided herself on simply enjoying life however it's handed to you. Peyton on the other hand was such the opposite. And while Nora had a huge impact on Peyton's life and the changes in Peyton were drastic Peyton will always be Peyton.

    The story touches on so many different issues. First it takes place in the south in the 60s, so there's the racial issues. Then Peyton is in a place in her life where she needs the guidance of a woman, but Nora is so unconventional it is question whether her ideals should have influence on Peyton. I can't really give any more because it would take away from the web of the story.

    The narrator did an excellent job. While I tend to think it would have been really hard to have a bad narration for such an amazing book Cristine McMurdo-Wallis did a really good job. She had such a dramatic voice and since Nora was such a dramatic person it fit perfectly together. Cristine's voice was just perfect for this one. She was very pleasant to listen to. She also did a great job of staying in character so you always knew who was talking.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2003

    DON'T MISS THIS BOOK!

    The book has a story that comes to life as you read this book. I am not a big fan of Anne Rivers Siddons, but this book is a masterpiece that is worth spending your time reading!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 19, 2002

    Great book!

    IF YOU'RE 12 YEARS OLD!!! Reminds me of books I used to read as a pre-teen. Would never have bothered finishing it, had it not been an audio book and I was taking a long car ride. Peyton is a stereo-typical mixed up kid, Aunt Augusta is a cliche, and Nora wants to be a Holly Golightly-type free spirit. It's all been DONE and with far more skill. I've read worse books, but I've certainly read better.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2000

    Nora, Nora not up to Anne Rivers Siddons usual quality

    Anne Rivers Siddons is one of my favorite authors, and I had eagerly awaited reading her latest book, Nora, Nora. Unfortunately, I was disappointed to find the book lacking the depth of her previous bestsellers. There wasn't much of a story compared to, say, Colony or Outer Banks, which is something the author usually does extremely well. I just did not feel drawn in to the lives of the characters in Nora, Nora.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2000

    Another hit by Siddons!

    I have enjoyed all of Anne Rivers Siddons books but perhaps this is my favorite. It is hard to put down. Hoping for a sequel!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2000

    Nora, Nora

    This book was excellent! There aren't really that many words that can describe how good it was. It was the best book I've ever read. It kept my attention the whole time; I never lost interest in anything that was going on. I would recommend it to anyone that is looking for a good book to read. It is an easy read because it is not too complicated, and it is not too long or dragged out. Again, I would recommend it to anyone.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Excelelnt historical tale

    In 1961 Lytton, Georgia seventh grader Peyton McKenzie lives with her widower father Frazier. At night Peyton watches old home movies of her family by herself. The filming stopped when her mother died so she never appears in any of them. <P>Peyton¿s second cousin, free spirited Nora Findlay, arrives and shakes up the household and the townsfolk with her ideas on racial equality and her open lifestyle. Nora begins to teach an English class of mixed races while tutoring. However, Nora has secrets of her own and though she loves her two relatives, has never been able to stay in one place very long. When will she find the pressure of Peyton and Frazier to be too much? <P>NORA, NORA is an excellent character-driven historical fiction novel that centers on life in a small Georgia town at the beginning of the civil rights movement. The story line is interesting, but lacks action. Instead the interrelationship between the characters and the motives that drive their actions make for an entertaining novel that readers will enjoy. Nora is warm and humorous as she stirs up the townsfolk to either back her antics or loathe her for representing the end of a lifestyle. Peyton is a great cast member who believes that she murdered her mother in childbirth. Frazier regains his lust for life. The secondary players add depth to the atmosphere as well as a better understanding of the three lead charcaters. Anne Rivers Siddons brings a bygone era alive with her wonderful period piece. <P>Harriet Klausner

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    Posted September 24, 2011

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    Posted October 7, 2011

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    Posted November 29, 2009

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    Posted July 5, 2013

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    Posted December 29, 2011

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