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None of the Same Sweet Girls are really girls anymore, and none of them have actually ever been that sweet. But this spirited group of Southern women, who have been holding biannual reunions ever since they were together in college, are nothing short of compelling. There's Julia Stovall, the First Lady of Alabama, who, despite her public veneer, is a ...
None of the Same Sweet Girls are really girls anymore, and none of them have actually ever been that sweet. But this spirited group of Southern women, who have been holding biannual reunions ever since they were together in college, are nothing short of compelling. There's Julia Stovall, the First Lady of Alabama, who, despite her public veneer, is a down-to-earth gal who only wants to know who her husband is sneaking out with late at night. There's Lanier Sanders, whose husband won custody of their children after he found out about her fling with a colleague. Then there's Astor Deveaux, a former Broadway showgirl who simply can't keep her flirtations in check. And Corinne Cooper, whose incredible story comes to light as the novel unfolds.
ALTHOUGH WE CALL OURSELVES the Same Sweet Girls, none of us are girls anymore. And I'm not sure that any of us are now, or ever have been, sweet. Nice, maybe, and polite, certainly. All southern girls are raised to be nice and polite, can't be anything but, regardless of how mean-spirited we might be deep down. The illusion of sweetness, that's all that counts. We don't have to be sincerely sweet, but by God we have to be good at faking it. Southern girls will stab you in the back, same as anyone else, but we'll give you a sugary smile while doing it.
The question is, are the Same Sweet Girls sweet? Hardly. But one thing's for sure: We're the same. We are the same complicated, screwy, mixed-up, love-each-other-one-minute and hate-each-other-the-next group of women we were when we met thirty years ago. I guess we were sweeter then, at age eighteen; we were certainly more naive and less sophisticated. I'd like to say virginal, but that wouldn't quite be true. Not of everyone. Okay, I was. Unlike the others, I was fresh off the farm, as wide-eyed and gullible as a newborn calf. But a couple of us were already damaged, innocence long gone. Those of us with a trace of naïveté left at age eighteen were soon to lose it; we just didn't know it then. I can promise you this: Not a single one of the Same Sweet Girls has a smidgen of it left today.
We're the same, but we're also different, if that makes sense. The group--the SSGs, we call ourselves--formed when we were in college together, roommates, suite-mates, tennis or lab partners. We got our name from a silly little incident that we still relate to each other, telling the story over and over as though we haven't heard it a million times already. Finding ourselves away from home for the first time, in the intimate environment of an all-girls' school, we became friends for life. We forged our clique then, our group of six girls, and we became closer than sisters. We scheduled classes together, stayed up half the night gossiping and giggling, went home with each other during weekends and holidays. As close as we were then, however, we were only truly bound together when one of us was lost, three years after graduation. When you're in your early twenties and invincible, death is a life-changing experience, a sobering wake-up call unlike any other.
I clung to the Same Sweet Girls then, loving them as I'd not done before. Before, life was one big party, the whole basis for our friendship; afterward, we were tightly bound, as though knitted together with unseen but indestructible threads. In tears, we stood apart from the crowd of mourners at the grave of one of our own, linked hands, and promised to remain friends, to always be the Same Sweet Girls we were then. Five felt like such an odd, lopsided number that we moved quickly to fill the gap, becoming the magic six again. Too quickly, some of us thought later. But . . . that's another story, for another time.
Today the six of us do not live in the same place; some of us are geographically separated by hundreds of miles. But somehow, we manage to stay as close as we were when living in the same dorm, all those years ago. Some years I've seen the others only at our biannual get-togethers, in early summer and late fall. There have been times when job or family obligations kept us apart. After graduation we started our careers, then we married, had babies, raised families. Things like sick children, school plays or Little League games, proms, funerals, weddings, graduations would keep us from attending our gatherings. Inevitably, when that happened, we grieved our absence from the group as though we'd never see each other again. Now that we're older, for the most part our kids grown and gone, we see each other more often, and we're all more aware of the passing of time, the shocking awareness that one day we'll attend a gathering of the Same Sweet Girls, and it will be our last one.
When I'm describing the Same Sweet Girls to other people, I usually tell them it's helpful to group us in twos. Lanier and I were former roommates, as were Julia and Astor; then there's the odd couple, Byrd and Rosanelle. (Poor Byrd, getting stuck with Rosanelle, but there again, that's another story.) Paired like that, we seem like polar opposites, but we aren't, really. I'm considered the weird one of the group, and I'll admit I've earned that honor. Most people think artists are weird, anyway, but me--I'm a gourd artist. As the other SSGs say, with much eye rolling, how many of those do you know? My former roommate, Lanier Sanders, doesn't do weird, being not only a former jock but also a nurse, which is such a prosaic profession for someone like Lanier. Lanier would have been a doctor--a good one--had she not flunked out of medical school her first year. Not because she's dumb; although she struggled in the humanities, Lanier's plenty smart in math and science. Here's the thing about Lanier--lovable as she is, she will always find a way to screw up her life. Almost fifty years old, and she is still doing it. But I don't have any room to talk, since I've been pretty good at that myself.
Like Lanier and me, Julia and Astor were college roommates. The school we attended, the Methodist College for Women in Brierfield,
Alabama (nicknamed The W), paired you up; you didn't get to choose like you do in most schools, the Methodists preferring to mix their poor scholarship students in with the more privileged ones. If it hadn't been for the incident our freshman year that made us the Same Sweet Girls, I'd never have gotten to know Julia Dupont or Astor Deveaux, either one. Unlike me, a shy little art major, both Julia and Astor were hot stuff on campus. Classically beautiful in a Grace Kelly sort of way, Julia Dupont was from a wealthy old family in Mobile. Her mother had gone to some fancy boarding school with the dean of women, which was how Julia ended up at The W. It was a year after we became friends before we discovered the real reason Julia was there. Thirty years later, it still surprises me.
What to say about Astor Deveaux? How about, she and I have a rather complicated relationship. I'm not sure what kind of weird chemistry there is between us, but it's been going on since the first day we met, in an Interpretative Dance class. Lanier accuses me of not even liking Astor, but that's not quite true. I don't trust her, I'll admit, and we've had numerous clashes. But like everyone else, I'm fascinated by her. From Lake Charles, Louisiana, Astor Deveaux came to The W on a dance scholarship and intrigued everyone on campus. None of us Alabama hicks had ever seen anyone like her; we'd certainly never seen anyone so talented. Astor went on to dance on Broadway, until she got too old to get good parts. Then she moved back to Alabama, unfortunately. See?--that's what I mean. I'm always making cracks like that about Astor, and I'm not even sure why. But one thing I do know--I've got better sense than to turn my back on her.
I group Byrd and Rosanelle together because they're the most normal ones of the Same Sweet Girls (which isn't saying a whole lot, believe me). Byrd McCain is plain and simple and unpretentious. We've nicknamed her Mama Byrd, a role she fits to a tee. She certainly plays it well, and if on occasion Byrd plays it too well, giving out advice, being uptight or disapproving . . . we always forgive her. She's that lovable. Rosanelle Tilley is another story, but she's not really one of us. She's who we inherited after Byrd's roommate, one of the original six, was killed in a car wreck, and we felt the need to fill the gap. Rosanelle's also the one who unintentionally gave us our name, the Same Sweet Girls. This will tell you everything you need to know about Rosanelle--she's flattered that we named our group after something she once said, not realizing that, as usual, we were being ironic and facetious. Thirty years have gone by, and she still doesn't get it.
It all sounds so serious, telling it like this, but it's anything but. Over the years, we've developed a lot of silly rituals that I'm embarrassed to tell other people about, especially now that we're almost fifty years old. We crown a queen and have royal edicts and all sorts of stuff like that. Each year the crown goes to the one who can prove that she's the most deserving. And what does she have to do to land the coveted crown? Why, be the sweetest one of all, of course. She campaigns all year for the crown, then has to convince the rest of us that she's done enough sugary deeds to earn the coveted title. The highlight of our summer weekend is when each of us summarizes our campaign for the crown during a ten-minute presentation. Like the pope, the queen is elected by secret ballot. Naturally, the first year everyone voted for herself, so we had to change the rules. It's not considered a sweet thing to do, to vote for yourself, and if you do so, you're disqualified.
Even more embarrassing, we have our own coded language that we call Girl Talk. It's been going on for so many years that it's hard to remember where most of it originated. The punch lines of popular jokes make the rounds, but we tire of them and they fall by the wayside, due to our overuse. Our most enduring Girl Talk comes from stories we repeat ad nauseam, year after year. Lanier provided one of the lines we use most often by telling us the story of the elderly woman who was a patient of hers. When Lanier took her vital signs and asked her how she was feeling, the lady said, "Terrible, just terrible. My rheumatism's worse than ever; I can't lift my arms; my back's killing me; and I can't walk without hurting. But it's being so cheerful that keeps me going." The other two most popular Girl Talk lines were provided by Astor, years ago. When she lived in New York, her best friend was a gay dancer named Ron. Astor would take Ron shopping with her because if she picked out the wrong thing, Ron would shake his head sadly and say, "Oh, honey, no." On the occasions Ron didn't go with her and she showed up wearing one of her mistakes, Ron would sigh, roll his eyes, and say, "Girl, what were you thinking?"
With the Girl Talk, the crowning of the queen, the royal salute, the procession, and the edicts, our get-togethers have become ritualized to the point that they're pure theater, and anyone peeking in a window at us would swear we're all crazy as loons. Which we are. One of these days, we'll stop being the Same Sweet Girls and start calling ourselves the Same Crazy Fools, I suppose. Some would say that day is fast approaching. But in the meantime, we'll be the Same Sweet Girls, who aren't girls anymore, and who aren't sweet and never have been. We'll keep crowning our queen and going through our rituals and loving each other and sometimes hating each other, because we've done it so long it's become a part of us. It's a big part of who we are and how we got to be that way. It's where we are today and how we got from there to here. It's our story.
2. Why does Corrine state early on that, "The illusion of sweetness, that's all that counts. We don't have to be sincerely sweet, but by God we have to be good at faking it. Southern girls will stab you in the back, same as anyone else, but we'll give you a sugary smile while doing it"? Why is this important to the story? How do Southern women differ from women in other parts of the country?
3. Looking at each chapter, how is the book structured? Why does King utilize this style here? What is the affect of multiple narrators?
4. Briefly describe each of the Same Sweet Girls. Share your impression of the group. Who do you like the most, and why? What are their backgrounds? How did they become a group, and why are they such good friends?
5. Consider Miles, Jesse Phoenix, Joe Ed, Paul and Cal. What are your impressions of these men? What are their roles in the story?
6. Thinking about the couplings of Julia and Joe Ed, Corrine and Miles, and Lanier and Paul, how did these couples get together? What kind of relationships do these Same Sweet Girls have with the men in their lives? What do these relationships reveal, or possibly reflect, about the Same Sweet Girls views of themselves?
7. Focusing on Astor’s and Roseanelle’s role in the book. Why are these unlikely characters accepted and tolerated, even loved, by the rest of the group? How do they influence other characters in the book? Why do others accept and even ignore such obvious flaws in their friends?
8. Lanier keeps a sort of diary, what she calls her Life Lessons notebook. Think about some of Lanier's notebook entries. For example, "Any landing you walk away from is a good landing;" "When the pupil is ready, the teacher appears;" "Seems to me that all males are obsessed with expanding their bodies and females with shrinking theirs, which must have something to do with their self-images." Discuss what they mean and whether or not they are helpful to you.
9. In Chapter 12, what do you make of Julia's saying she "survived life by slow paddling down the river of denial"? What has she been denying? Recount her relationship with her mother. What was her mother's reaction when Bethany was born? Did Julia somehow agree with her mother? How does Julia evolve, and what enables her to do so?
10. Looking at Corrine, what do the gourds represent, both literally and figuratively? Why does King choose gourds instead of canvas or pottery for Corrine's art? Trace Corrine's personal history. Why is she the one who has a terminal disease? What does Miles mean when he says to her, "Your biography becomes your biology?" Is this true in her case? Do you believe this is true in general? Why?
11. What gives Corrine the motivation to stand up to Miles? Share how you reacted when she finally does.
12. In Chapter 18, Lindy confronts Lanier about Lanier's affect on her and others: "Then change, Mama . . ." How did you react do this speech? What would you say to Lindy? What would you say to Lanier?
13. In Chapter 23, there is a discussion of helping a friend die. What would you do if a friend or family member asked you to assist their death? Would you want that kind of help? Knowing what Corrine does about her disease, what you advise her to do about her treatment? Why is Lanier so surprised when she learns Paul might assist someone's death?
14. Why is Cal so attracted to Corrine? What is significant about the timing of his interest? What is the significance of the large kettle gourd that he returns to her? What enables his aged grandmother to understand the purpose of this kettle gourd? Discuss the paragraph in Chapter 26 where Cal says to Corrine, "Damn right you're not like me . . . You've got to finish that one."
15. What resonates, and affects you the most, about The Same Sweet Girls? What stays with you?
Posted August 3, 2009
I couldn't put it down right up to the outstanding ending. Character development was well thought out. I never had trouble following it and it was a delectable summer read. Kept me wanting more. It delivered.
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Posted February 2, 2005
The word 'girls' is often used as an euphemism, and it is again in Cassandra King's touching second novel. The girls are six women who have been friends since college. To celebrate this bond they meet twice a year to fill each other in on what has gone on in their lives and enjoy each others' company. This story is told by three of the women whose voices are adroitly captured by actress Patricia Kalember. A veteran of stage, screen and television, Ms. Kalember inhabits the personas of a rambunctious, fun loving gal, a rather proper governor's wife, and an avant garde artist. She does all of this with grace and charm. Ms. King is an author of considerable talent as she has the ability to both move and amuse with a turn of her pen. Many will remember with pleasure 'The Sunday Wife,' in which it was discovered that she had the ability to evoke Southern scenes as skillfully as her husband, author Pat Conroy. The girls in Ms. King's latest novel are now reaching 50 and coming to terms with many of the decisions they have made in life. The first lady of Alabama, Julia Stovall, has joined her husband at the pinnacle of their state's political life, yet she has obligations that either bore or weary her and her husband's bodyguard may be irresistible. Lanier Sanders is separated from her husband. Evidently, temptation was too difficult to resist. And, Corrine Cooper, while she has attained success as an artist is plagued by depression and an ex-husband who seeks to keep her from her son. While these problems are challenging, they become almost inconsequential when one of the group faces what for all of us would be the most difficult crisis of all. How they band together at such a time is warm reminder of the value of true friendship. - Gail Cooke
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Posted August 10, 2013
Posted December 30, 2011
I love this book. I have read it a few times and it's a book that I can continue to go back to every few years. This book sends you on an emotional roller-coaster. I cried, I laughed, I got mad, hurt and hopeful. The friendships are very real and true to life and most times enviable. While reading you feel like another member of their tight knit little group and I haven't read a book since this one that invited me into their world and enveloped me in it. I can't imagine anyone not liking it, but to each his own I guess. I would really suggest reading this to anyone who loves to get lost in another world when they read a book, I don't think you'll be disappointed!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 6, 2009
Posted August 2, 2008
I thought this book was really good. Sometimes it is hard to follow because each chapter is by a different character which I found distracting at times. But overall, I really enjoyed the friendship between the SSG's.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 12, 2007
The characters in the book were totally real to life. I felt all the way through the book that I was on vacation with my best friends. I was very sorry the book had to end.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 10, 2007
Well, overall it was mildly entertaining. I found it to be rather bland and anti-climactic. A good read if you are bored and have nothing better to do, but not a real page turner. I was expecting more spunk and stronger ties.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 11, 2006
Posted September 30, 2006
I was anxious to read this book because I too have a strong core group of friends, but was disappointed in the story line. It was kinda boring and there was too many undeveloped stories mixed in. Found it to be drawn out and I never felt connected to these women
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Posted July 23, 2006
I liked this book. It was easy to get into and the characters were like normal people that you have relationships with throughout your life. They deal with problems that most of us have/will come across. This is a book about friendships and life relationships.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 21, 2005
Same Sweet Girls is a fascinating story of five friends who share bi-annual moments together. For so long, the friendship has been tested and proven to be deep and genuine. It portrayed their different lives, failures, sucesses, hopes, dreams, regrets, pains and convictions.An inspiring page turner, Same Sweet Girls has a great plot and marvellous characterization. Above all, it shows the strength of friendship, of having someone who has your back.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 14, 2005
Because this book got such raves, everyone in my book club was disappointed. The characters were unbelievable and their situations all failed to come to any sort of satisfactory result.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 17, 2005
This book had a 'Ya-Ya esque' feel to it. It is witty and heart warming, as well as heart breaking. The friendships in this book are poignant. It is a must read for anyone who thinks your friends need to be just like you....to be your best friends. It exemplifies acceptance and forgiveness...a lesson I needed to be reminded of!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 8, 2005
This is a lovely tale and it takes you into the places of your heart that are not easily accessible. You want to know these women and perhaps be friends with each one, given the opportunity. There was much reality written in these pages, yet it was not too over the top or overdone. A pleasant reading experience that left it mark and made you feel good in general. No aftertaste of 'what ifs' or 'maybes', just an enjoyable story that could have been anyone's life, only with magnificent friendship attached.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 6, 2005
Posted April 28, 2005
I am almost finished with this book and can not put it down. It grabs you from the first chapter and does not let you go. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves to read but has a hard time finding a book worthwhile.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 17, 2005
I simply could not put this book down. Even when the tears came. She's right up there with Siddens and the rest! I'm going to get her other two books and can hardly wait to read them.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 10, 2005
It only took me 3 days (I work full time) to finish this wonderful story of women and long time friendship. If you can read it and pass it on to a real true friend do it. I will pass it on to my wonderful friend who has been my friend for 30+ years and she just lost a childhood friend from cancer so this will inspire her and make her feel like she was fulfilled to have this friend in her life. Do yourself a favor and buy yourself this book. It will make you laugh, cry, all sorts of emotions.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 14, 2005
I found this book to be throughly enjoyable from start to finish...the characters are ones you can relate to, with their own set of problems...I promise you, you are in for a real treatWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.