Southern housewife Linwood Breedlove Scott was happily content in her comfortable, complacent thirty-year marriage, but when her husband cleans out their bank accounts and runs off with a stripper, her life takes a hilarious, yet touching, right turn into reality. With no place to go but home, she's forced back to her insular hometown and the "eccentric" family she escaped by marrying at nineteen: her senile father, her loving-yet-controlling mother, her long-suffering aunt, her crazy uncle, and her good-for-nothing brother. But despite her newly dependent situation and her family's genteel insanity, Lin begins to stand on her own two feet and wake up to the joys-and perils-of life as a single woman. And she also learns surprising lessons about her family: that things aren't always what they seem, and that the power of love governs even the most dysfunctional of relationships. This joy-filled, moving, and wise-cracking novel delivers a portrait of Southern life, Southern families, and self-discovery that readers will never forget.
About the Author
Atlanta native Haywood Smith lives on the shores of Lake Lanier near the small town of Buford, Georgia. She has one son, currently in medical school who is "married to a wonderful, fearless Christian woman," and a close family that includes her mother, three sisters, and a brother. Inspired by her own observations of Southern life and family, she created this funny, joyous tribute to one woman's triumph over adversity.
Watch for Haywood's next book, the story of five Atlanta women whose warm, witty friendship keeps them together and sane through high school in the Sixties, college, the evolution of the New South, marriage, children, corporate wifedom, Garden Club, death, kiddy sports, affairs, menopause, financial ruin, rehab, facelifts, divorce, and the Junior League.
Haywood Smith is the author of Queen Bee of Mimosa Branch, The Red Hat Club, and Red Hat Club Rides Again. She lives in Buford, Georgia.
Date of Birth:April 21, 1949
Place of Birth:Atlanta, Georgia
Education:One year of college and several professional real estate degrees and appraisal certifications
Read an Excerpt
Queen Bee of Mimosa Branch
By Haywood Smith
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2002 Haywood Smith
All rights reserved.
I took the long way home that fateful midsummer day last July, maybe because I still couldn't quite believe what I was about to do.
I could still hear Miss Mamie — that's my mother; everybody calls her Miss Mamie, including my brother and me — telling me, on the eve of my wedding, that if I insisted on marrying Phil at nineteen, I shouldn't even think of turning up on her doorstep again. "You make your bed, you lie in it," she'd said with absolute conviction. (Miss Mamie says everything with absolute conviction.)
Yet here I was thirty years later, galled to my very soul that my family's dire predictions for my marriage had finally proven true. The phantom umbilicus that connected me to my mother had turned out to be a cosmic bungee cord, my fifty years of life one long, ludicrous leap that was rebounding at light-speed back to the womb, God help me.
So that Thursday, the day after the Fourth of July, I took the slow, scenic route through Mimosa Branch. Driving into the old business district, I was struck that my hometown seemed to have come up in the world at least as far as I had come down. Everything was fixed up, filled up, and decidedly suburban upscale, right down to the contemporary artists' warren in one of the old mill buildings.
Miss Mamie had told me all about the artists in her almost-daily phone updates. An equal-opportunity gossip, she belonged not only to the United Methodist Women, but also to the Baptist Women's Circle, so she got the scoop. She'd assured me the good ladies were doing their best to love these "offbeat transplants" in a Christian way, just as they tried to love "those Mexicans" who had flooded into the area and "snapped up" all the jobs at the poultry plant. But as to the artists, the good churchwomen of Mimosa Branch — Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, and even the Pentecostals — had been united at last by their common alarm about the New Age influence the interlopers had introduced to their conservative community. Worse still, several of the odd characters were from California, a point of origin surpassing even Florida in its capacity for alienating the locals.
I knew my mother would fill me in on all their subversive activities. Endlessly. Incessantly. In person.
Shuddering at the thought, I tried to concentrate on the brick storefronts that flanked Main Street. Gone were the FOR RENT signs and sad neglect. Like kudzu, Atlanta's suburban tentacles had invaded my hometown and cloaked it in green — the spending kind. And like kudzu, the blanket of green had certainly made things look better, at least on the surface. Whether it was really an improvement, though, remained to be seen. The decay was still there under kudzu; you just couldn't see it.
Yep. Things had definitely changed. I passed the nude painting Miss Mamie had told me "blared right out on Main Street." Galleries now replaced all but a single law office of the dozen that once practiced here. I'd always wondered how so many lawyers could stay in business in a town of 3000 that wasn't a county seat. Apparently, they couldn't. But then again, this was no longer a sleepy little town of 3000.
Even the people on the sidewalks looked different. Where were the fat women? Mimosa Branch had always had the state's highest per capita ratio of fat women. I wondered if one of those California artists had gotten the city to enact that same secret ordinance they had in Beverly Hills and Brentwood, banning fat people from coming out in public.
My thirty extra pounds smarted in outrage.
The one comforting presence downtown was Chief Parker's Drugs, which had defiantly held onto its ugly aluminum awning and faded fifties' commercial tackiness through three owners and the insurgence of trendy bistros, boutiques, and galleries. "NEVER CLOSED TO THE SICK" was still painted on the front windows above the store's number and old Doc Owens's home phone. The place stuck out like a sore thumb among its trendy new neighbors.
Mimosa Branch, trendy. I still couldn't believe it. Seeing the tastefully quaint renovations in subdued merchants'-association-approved coordinated colors, I felt like I was looking at a movie set.
How long had it been since I'd come here last? I thought back. Not since the year I'd dragged Miss Mamie on that cultural exchange to France ... '91. Cripes. Ten years. I was moving back to a place I hadn't even seen in a decade. Heaven only knew what things were like here now.
Everything changes, I told myself. Maybe if I got lucky, life at home would be different, too. Better, I hastily qualified.
Not that it was that bad growing up. How can I put it diplomatically? Life at 1431 Green Street had been just a bit too ... colorful for my tastes.
I eased my car into the turn where Main Street became Green Street at the second dogleg, just past the most recent and ostentatious of the Breedlove mansions, now resurrected to its turn-of-the-century Italianate glory as a posh bed-and-breakfast. Miss Mamie had told me all about it, of course, but seeing the restored grounds and tastefully sandblasted sign, I felt an inexplicable sense of loss. The place seemed to wear its newfound prosperity uneasily, like a mechanic in a three-piece Brooks Brothers suit.
A bed-and-breakfast in a town that had always been a "meat and three" kind of place. Go figure.
Two more blocks of Green Street to home, railroad on the left now, houses on the right.
Bracing for a bump that didn't happen, I realized the city had finally done away with the abandoned sidetracks leading to the old mill. Farther down, the old Watkins place gleamed afresh with vinyl siding and dark green shutters. Law Office. Maybe they hadn't all gone away, just moved to larger quarters.
Beyond that, somebody was redoing Mrs. Duckett's fanciful Victorian from the studs out, complete with a copper cupola, scalloped shingles in the gables, suitably gaudy Chinese red paint on the gingerbread, and a real slate roof. Must have set them back at least a mil.
And across the next side street, 1431 Green Street loomed, the one thing in town besides Chief Parker's Drugs that still looked the same as it always had.
On its own, my foot eased back on the gas.
Bounded by shoulder-high camellia hedges that, like the rest of our home place, had seen better days, the sturdy old white Victorian sat firmly anchored by eighty feet of verandah — "Miss Mamie's Porch" to one and all in Mimosa Branch. Nothing fanciful about our house; it was massive, angular, and quintessentially functional. And as usual, it needed painting. Old Southern houses peel worse than Scandinavians at Miami Beach, so ownership conveys a constant cycle of scrape and paint, and I do mean constant. At least it gave my underemployed brother, Tommy, something useful to do.
As I neared the driveway, my car slowed to a crawl all by itself. I still could not accept that I was really doing this, so I distracted myself by focusing on the familiar landmarks. The same massive elm stumps rotted between the road and the cracked, uneven sidewalk. The same garden-club flower beds bloomed with marigolds and cockscomb by the railroad tracks across the street.
I reached the opening in our camellia hedge and squeezed my car past the historical marker onto the circular gravel driveway. My eyes scanned past the bronze letters: ALLEN BREEDLOVE MANSION, 1897. THE SECOND RESIDENCE OF ALLEN BREEDLOVE, FOUNDER OF MIMOSA BRANCH AND BREEDLOVE TEXTILES. ... I used to take pride in reading my family's illustrious history, but ever since Granny Beth had spilled the beans about what a pompous son-of-a-bitch my great-grandfather had really been, the words rang false.
Up ahead, the house's wide, shallow steps and porch boards shone the same blue-gray against the white of the latticed foundation. The same sweet autumn clematis twined through the porch rails. And the same damned purple bathtub full of pink begonias reclined on its gilded ball-and-claw feet beside the front door, like a rich old socialite laid out on a swooning couch in her underwear. Miss Mamie had affixed 1431 to the side in big brass numbers, which only drew more attention to the embarrassing eyesore. Clearly, she'd given up even trying to find somebody to haul the thing away. How white-trash was that?
My foot hit the brake as if my body was telling me, "It's not too late! Get away! Run!"
The trouble was, I had no place else to run. The only people who would take me in lived inside those walls. And every last one of them was crazy to some degree.
Unlike me, of course. I was damaged, but normal. At least, that was the conviction I clung to.
I forced myself to drive the last few yards to the wide spot in the gravel where the porch steps came down to the edge of the driveway. There I stopped. Like it or not, I had arrived. A dull throb of pain bloomed in my right eye and deepened slightly with every heartbeat.
Oh, God. I was really doing this, moving back home at fifty. The very thing I'd spent the past five years criticizing my brother for doing.
Judge not that ye be not judged, in spades.
But unlike Tommy, I had no intention of staying. I'd only be here until I got back on my feet. I'd be back out from under Miss Mamie's roof as soon as I made enough money to redo the garage apartment. Beyond that, who knew, but I had great hopes. I had to.
I'd escaped once; I could do it again. I'd be fine.
Right, the cynical new voice who lived inside me said. You're fifty. No money. No degree. No technical skills. No real job experience. Knees too rotten to wait tables or work as a checkout clerk. Sure, you'll be fine.
My spiral into self-pity was cut short when Uncle Bedford lurched out the front door in nothing but Depends, carrying a mahogany TV tray loaded with his shoes. (I recognized the white patent slip-ons.) His stocky, little hyper-blond self had wasted away to almost nothing, but he descended the steps with surprising speed and agility.
I watched in morbid fascination. Hearing Miss Mamie's reports about his mental deterioration was one thing, but seeing him this way was quite another. Now I understood why Aunt Gloria had moved the two of them in with my parents six months ago. Who could cope with this alone?
"Don't try to deny it!" he hollered to nobody in particular.
Stupidly, I raised my hand and waved as he detoured around the front of my car, leaving a cordovan loafer on the hood. "Hey, Uncle Bedford." Since he'd been a well-respected podiatrist for more than forty years, the shoes seemed vaguely appropriate to me, which is pretty damned scary in retrospect, I can tell you.
Heedless of the gravel on his bare feet, Uncle Bedford stomped toward the late-blooming azaleas that separated the circular driveway from the front lawn.
Better stay out of Miss Mamie's pet azaleas, Uncle Bedford, or you'll really be in hot water. For reasons unknown to God or man, those gumpos had been flowering in midsummer ever since my mother had planted them back in '73. They'd become her local claim to fame.
"That boy took my shoes, that gay guy," my uncle ranted. "He takes everything."
Miss Mamie's updates had informed me that Poor Aunt Gloria had become "that gay guy" to Uncle Bedford, just as she had become Poor Aunt Gloria to the rest of the family when Uncle Bedford had finally quit drinking three years ago and promptly gone into the permanent D.T.'s.
Poor Aunt Gloria, indeed. At least I was moving back to the bosom of my own family. She'd been forced to live at the sufferance of in-laws.
Speak of the devil, here Aunt Glory came out the front door, round, fierce, and firmly packed as ever, holding out one of the sheets Uncle Bedford used for keeping "the Japanese" off the furniture. Hobbling down the stairs on her arthritic knees, she said through her tiny teeth, "Don't you dare get out of that car, Lin. I'll take care of your uncle. He's my husband, so it's my shame to bear."
She caught up with him beside the Rose of Sharon that was in glorious fuchsia bloom. "Jackson Bedford Breedlove the Fourth." Owing to his deafness, she shouted loud enough to be heard a block away. "Cover up and come back to the house this instant before somebody from church sees you!"
Her husband hallucinated Japanese, thought she was a gay guy, and was running around in Depends with a TV tray full of shoes, and she was worried what somebody from church would think? Uncle Bedford wasn't the only crazy person in this scenario. Obviously, living with him had made Aunt Glory as loony as he was.
Never one to back down, Aunt Gloria held the sheet like a matador's cape and did her best to corral her husband. Uncle Bedford evaded her first few swoops, but he soon got enough of it and counterattacked with a powerful swing of the TV tray. Shoes went flying. Fortunately, Aunt Gloria managed to jump out of the way, because the tray made an ominous whooshing noise as it whizzed past her.
Damn, he was strong. I had read somewhere that when they were psychotic, even fragile old geezers like Uncle Bedford were strong as prizefighters on PCP, and now I believed it.
My conscience told me it was time to get out of the car and try to rescue my aunt from her husband, but not before I punched 911 into my cell phone and poised my finger over the send button. I opened the car door and stepped into humid, oppressive air that smelled of granite dust, fresh-cut grass, magnolia blooms, and honeysuckle.
My mother chose just that moment to emerge from the house in full dudgeon, broom in hand, still a force of nature despite her eighty years. "Good Lord, Bedford," she fumed, "if you weren't the General's baby brother and sole survivin' family, I'd shoot you dead on the spot. Now get back in the house. Poor Lin's gonna think this place is an insane asylum!"
"Poor Lin" knew it was an insane asylum and so did my mother, but my only thought was a desperate, Dear God, please don't let me be Poor Lin from now on! I couldn't stand it. Anything but that.
After a perfunctory, "Sorry, baby," to me, Miss Mamie bustled over and laid a firm hold onto Aunt Gloria's elbow. "Go back inside, Glory," she said with exaggerated diction, a manner of speaking reserved for embarrassing situations. The more embarrassing the situation, the more precise and gravid her speech. "You only make it worse when he's this way. Leave him to Lin and me."
I took another look at the heft of that TV tray and the brittle spark in Uncle Bedford's eyes and voted for 911, but I kept my mouth shut because I knew the mere mention of calling in strangers would send these women into a rage, or hysterics, or both.
Aunt Gloria, unwilling as ever to leave the field of dishonor without a clear victory, shot yet another anxious look up and down the empty pavement of Green Street. Then she deflated. "All right." She handed over the sheet, suddenly looking every bit of her worried, worn-out seventy-six years. "But at least try to keep him behind the azaleas where nobody can see him. I won't be able to lift my head in this town if anybody from church should drive by."
"They won't, sugar," my mother reassured her in her normal voice. "This time of day, they're all home napping or watching All My Children. You know that."
"Lord, I hope so." Aunt Glory glared at Uncle Bedford, which was all it took to set him off again.
He jabbed the TV tray in his beleaguered wife's direction. "That boy took my shoes! I want 'em back! These new ones hurt my feet!"
"Bedford," Aunt Gloria hollered, "look at your feet. You're not even wearing any shoes."
This was going to be my life: Aunt Gloria trying to use logic with Uncle Bedford in the midst of a psychotic break, and Miss Mamie thinking she can fix everything with confidence and a broom.
I'd married at nineteen to get away from crap like this!
The pain in my right eye bloomed to ice-pick intensity, stabbing through the back of my skull. I winced like Popeye.
Miss Mamie prodded Aunt Gloria toward the house. "He'll do better when you're out of sight, honey," she assured in her embarrassing-situation voice. "So hurry on outta here, before somebody from church really does come by."
Patting her sparse permanent wave, Aunt Gloria turned her silk-clad back on her husband with military precision, then marched her Talbot's flats toward the porte cochere. Uncle Bedford watched with a canny gleam of triumph. "Hah!"
Miss Mamie handed me the sheet. "Keep this ready, sugar. Let's just give him a little time to settle down."
Excerpted from Queen Bee of Mimosa Branch by Haywood Smith. Copyright © 2002 Haywood Smith. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Reading Group Guide
Linwood Breedlove Scott's life has officially hit rock bottom. Her husband of thirty years has run off with a stripper. The IRS has taken everything but her coffee table. And her hot flashes are four-alarmers. The only thing that could make being flat-broke and fifty any worse is having to crawl home to her parents' house in Mimosa Branch, Georgia...which is exactly where she's headed.
Lin's barely prepared for the loony bin that greets her, from her controlling, eighty-year-old mother and shockingly blunt father to her long-suffering Aunt Glory and her deranged Uncle Bedford who is convinced a cannibal lives under the furniture. Nor is she ready for the instant love-hate attraction she feels for her handsome new next-door neighbor. Trying to navigate her way through the second act of her life with nothing more than a prepaid calling card, a broken heart, and plenty of Prozac, Lin's about to discover that it's never too late for old friends, new romance, the ties of family, and a second chance to survive it all on the road to becoming the person you were always meant to be...
1. When Linwood Scott's life falls apart, she has nowhere to turn but her family. Do you think she had any other choice? In the same circumstances, would you return to your family?
2. How does Linwood's attitude toward self-sufficiency change throughout the course of the novel?
3. Female friendships are crucial to the healing of Linwood Scott. In what ways were her friends instrumental in helping her through her trials and tribulations?
4. Would you characterize Miss Mamie as a strong woman? A controlled woman? A controlling woman? In what ways is her relationship with men similar of different from Linwood's?
5. What was the turning point of Linwood's relationship with her brother?
6. How did you feel the author portrayed the issues of Alzheimer's and senility?
7. Were you satisfied with the way things turned out between Linwood and Grant? Why or why not?
8. Where could you imagine Linwood's life heading after the novel closes?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I had a great time with this book, couldn't put it down and it made me laugh so much.... Liked the sayings there like: 'Where the mind goes the body follows...' Really good.
From the first page, I was totally captivated with the characters and read this book in three sittings. I hated to put it down. The characters are strong and comfortable, they were familiar and wonderful. Queen Bee Of Mimosa Branch shows that yes you can go home again. This book is a wonderful, funny, warm & fuzzy book that allows you to curl up in your easy chair and escape into a nice, safe world of southern genteel society. Queen Bee Of Mimosa Branch has left me hungry for more. Let's hope Ms. Smith writes a sequel to this book.
What a hoot! This is one of the funniest books I've ever read. I either know or am personally related to EVERY character in this book, AND being from the South made it all the more real and funny. My whole family has read it, and we have laughed together. It's one of those you'll like to read along with a close girlfriend or sister so you can hoot, holler, cry & celebrate with the main character! It's also very real and touching - Lin has a lot to teach us! And when you get frustrated, just say the triple mantra of your choice (mine is Sh--,Sh--,Sh--!!)ha-HA!
Strong, funny book that shows life is full of wonderful surprises. Beautifully written characters, absolutely loved all the relationships between the characters, and shows that you can go home again. Rich background that just comes to life. Had plenty of chuckles reading this one as well as 'The Red Hat Club'. Wonderful for a lazy day in the sun. Couldn't put it down!
I really enjoyed the bit of romance in the book that, in the beginning, made you want for more but then stopped short just at the right time. I love stories set in the south and this goes down as one of my favorites. Will turn others on to this one.
A enjoyable breath of fresh air! Loved the little twists and turns, is there anything more satisfying than a book about a good southeren woman? But really a great book would recommend and will now buy for my older, single friends, for inspiration!
The story of a southern daughter who returns to her family home in GA after her husband leaves her penniless in his pursuit of a stripper. She struggles to find herself and where and how she can fit into her community. With the support of family and friends she discovers a love for the people in her life that at one time drove her to distraction.I liked this book much better than Red Hat Club by the same author, I found it warmer and funnier.
I really enjoyed this book. I liked this better than the Red Hat Club, which she also wrote. Lin Breedlove Scott has to move back home after she and her cheating husband divorce because he left them $200,000 in debt. She couldn't wait to move out of her parent's house as a teenager and hates the thought of moving back into the looney bin, but a funny thing happens. This time around she sees things differently and quirks that were embarrassing to a teenager become more endearing as an adult. This wasn't the life she would have picked for herself but she makes it her own. This is pure southern fiction!
I guess you would classify this novel under "General Fiction" but it wasmore like an "un"romance story. This is another of those southern novelsthat I like so much and it tells the story of a 50 year old woman namedLinwood Breedlove Scott whose 30 year marriage just ended spectactularlywhen her CPA husband became engaged to a 23 year old stripper after runningthem into nearly a quarter of a million dollars worth of debt. Her perfectmarriage crumbles around her and she loses everything to the creditors andthe tax man (her husband failed to file their own taxes for three years).The book opens with Lin pulling into the driveway of her parent's house withall her worldly goods in some grocery sacks in the back seat and trunk. Sheis humiliated and debased to be coming back to "Miss Mamie's" when she hadbeen so relieved to marry at 19 to get away from them. Now she finds hermother as strong willed as ever, but a much frailer 80 years old, with herblustering father, the General, 88 and plagued by Alzheimer's. TheGeneral's brother, Bedford, and his wife Glory are both living there, too,with Bedford's mind nearly gone to dementia. Lin's younger good for nothingalcoholic brother still lives at home and the daily games these people playhave changed very little in 30 years, but now have the spice of dementiaadded.She's literally found herself in the only shelter she has left -- The LoonyBin. She's a former cheerleader coming back to the small town she came fromwhere no one has forgotten her and Miss Mamie's "prayer chain" has kept allthe gossips fueled with her sad tale of woe for the past several months.Now she finds herself being called "Poor Lin" and it drives her nuts.There is something downright refreshing about reading a story where the leadcharacter is a 50 year old, vital woman. It's the story of how this woman"finds" her strength (that was there all along) and rebuilds her life, onelittle step at a time. There's a man in it, not so much a romantic interestas an object of secret lust that surprises the hell out of Lin. But it's alot more than that, too. It's also the story of small town southernpolitical corruption and how Lin and her old friends band together to try tostop it.I really enjoyed this story. It was light and moved along well, madeperfect sense, and was filled with "gotcha" moments for me when I saw myselfin Lin. Here is a woman trying to be a person on her own after having spenther life being somebody's daughter or somebody's wife. This one is a nicechange of pace.
Good read. Lol moments
Haywood Smith is one of those authors that you like to come back too and that's just what I did. This is not a new book but is well worth checking out if you have not read anything by Haywood Smith.
I was disappointed with this book. Maybe I couldn't relate since I haven't been through divorce or middle age, but I thought it was full of shallow dialogue and cliches.
This was a delightfully funny book with homespun wit that had me laughing out loud. Haywood Smith puts the characters in your face with all the charm and grace of a firey southern woman.
I can not believe there are no reviews yet for this book! This is a great southern women book. The characters are hilarious and the story but funny and heart breakingly sweet. Runaway husbands, crazy relatives, best friends and new flames. That is a good combination and it reads wonderfully in this entertaining story. Can't wait to read Red Hat Club. Way to go Ms. Smith
It was a wonderful blend of humor, small town quirks and the joy of family. I enjoyed this book, it made me laugh, and touched my heart.
Being a 24 year old woman, who has never been married, never had children, and who has just left home with no thought of turning, I would probably say I am the perfect example of a reader that has nothing in common with the Lin, the main character, yet still felt wonderfully connected to her. I loved this book! I got it as a present for Christmas and read it, thinking that I wouldn't like it (having not picked it out myself). I was deeply mistaken. Buy, Buy, Buy this book. You'll be reading it at 3am with no plans to stop! Trust me!! It's wonderful!
I love reading southern fiction and found this to be a wonderful slice of life. I laughed and I cheered for Linwood.I am a realtor and remember that feeling of anticipation waiting for the test results. I measure a book by how much I hate to finish it, this was one I did not want to end. Mimosa Branch represents all that I love about the South. Thanks for the pleasure of this great story!