Synopses & Reviews
"Shaffer gathers all the elements of engaging suspense: violent death, switched identities, blackmail and contrasting worlds of magnolia gentility and vaudeville seediness. And fans of the Three Miss Margarets will be delighted that Shaffer has returned us to the scene of the crime Charles Valley, Ga. and this time gives us more of her delightful, scrappy, self-doubting heroine, Laurel Selene McCready. Shaffer's strength is her feeling for Southern white women with intellect and conscience and her disinclination to be simple when the truth is complicated. But her very depth is a liability in this saga of events following the (nonviolent) death of one of the Margarets, Peggy Garrison. The pace is slowed by an overload of backstory, awkwardly spliced, and by the time the action really heats up, there are no surprises. Still, there's emotional satisfaction to be found in the becoming of Laurel, who has inherited the magnificent Garrison Gardens from Peggy and is now officially, reluctantly, a lady, even if she swears, drinks beer and drives fast. Agent, Eric Simonoff. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
LOUISE SHAFFER is the author of The Three Miss Margarets. A graduate of the Yale School of Drama, she has also written for television and has appeared on Broadway, in TV movies, and in daytime dramas, earning an Emmy for her work on Ryan’s Hope. She and her husband live in the Lower Hudson Valley.
Reading Group Guide
Charles Valley’s legendary dowagers, the three Miss Margarets, have lost one of their own: Peggy Garrison, who married into a huge fortune but was constantly overshadowed by the legacy her husband’s first wife, the great Myrtis Garrison. When Peggy’s will is read, the news of who will take over the Garrison fortune shakes the town to its core. To everyone’s shock, Peggy has left all of the Garrison holdings–the world-famous botanical gardens, the massive resort, and the lovely Garrison “Cottage,” where FDR once visited–to the town’s down-and-out wild child, Laurel Selene McCready.
Laurel was like a daughter to Miss Peggy, but the last thing she wants to do is step into Miss Peggy’s shoes as the wealthiest, most powerful person in town, especially since the Garrison fortune never bought Peggy any happiness. On top of that, when Laurel reluctantly explores her hew home, the storied Garrison Cottage, she discovers that mysteries abound when it comes to the great Miss Myrtis. What clues are hidden in an old suitcase containing a child’s dress and sheet music dating back to the Southern Vaudeville circuit? Who is the elderly woman outside Atlanta who has been keeping track of the Garrison estate’s every development via the Charles Valley Gazette? And how will Laurel avoid the fate of her two predecessors whose secrets have far greater implications than Laurel could ever have imagined? Culminating in an unforgettable sleight of hand, proving that behind every great fortune there is a great crime, The Ladies of Garrison Gardens is as page-turning and irresistible as its predecessor.
1. Since becoming friends with the three Miss Margarets, and learning the truth about her father, Laurel has mellowed, gained some self esteem, and is no longer as self destructive as she used to be-- do you believe that kind of change can really happen to someone at her age? Do you know someone who has changed in this way?
2. Do you believe The Weiner is the right guy for Laurel? If not, who would you choose for Laurel?
3. If you answered yes to #2, do you believe Laurel has evolved enough to appreciate him?
4. Laurel and Peggy finally found a relationship that filled in the gaps for each other before Peggy died. Have you seen this kind of relationship yourself, or have you experienced it personally?
5. Do you think Laurel will be able to run the gardens and the resort successfully? This brings up a broader question-- do we always need the "experts" who tell us how to do things or are there times when people who are smart, willing to learn, and have the right intentions can do as well or better than the honchos. (Think Enron when answering this one) .
6. On a similiar topic, is Laurel being realistic when she tells her executives that they should make sacrifices in bonuses and perks before they cut benefits for workers-- could this actually happen in today's business climate?
7. Even though Laurel and Miss Myrtis never met and it would seem as if they couldn't be more different, they are sisters under the skin, and Laurel will be picking up the torch for Myrtis. Do you think life and history often work like that? Do we have connections to people from the past that we aren't even aware of? Do you believe that we finish their unfinished business?
8. Laurel finds the dress and the sheet music in the old suitcase and doesn't know what it means-- have you ever found something like that and speculated about the story behind it? Have you ever traced the item back to it's source and found out if you were right?
9. Iva Claire was a child who became her mother's mother. Do you think this happens more often than we know with mothers and daughters? What about your relationship with your mother or grandmother -- what characteristics do you share with them?
10. Do you think the tragedy that occured when Iva Claire lost her temper would have happened if she hadn't been defending her mother?