"Complex and multi-layered, Apron Strings is a deftly written and compelling read from beginning to end." —Midwest Book Review
When a grown-up tells you not to worry, you had better start—first rule of thumb, Sallee Mackey, age seven. She is already more than a little bit wary of the adults in her segregated, Southern world with good reason. Sallee’s mother Ginny is flat out dangerous; her father Joe is on his way out the door; and Mr. Dabney the bigoted neighbor seems to be just a little too interested with the goings on at Sallee’s house—like he knows something no one else does.
The only adult to be trusted is Ethel, the family maid, who has known Sallee’s mother since Ethel and Ginny were both girls. That complicated relationship started the day Ethel spied Ginny kissing the black stable boy years ago. While Ginny has conveniently forgotten that she even knew Ethel back then, Sallee has not as she constantly lobs questions at Ethel about her mother’s girlhood.
From Sallee’s oft times humorous and always guileless vantage, grownups have a most mixed up view of the world. Ethel gives her very own biased account of her shared history with Ginny while Sallee hones her vigilance and stealth, skills she and her brother and two sisters have acquired in an attempt to understand the drama that swirls around them.
Rocks are thrown through windows, a car filled with angry white men shout racial slurs at the children at play and a tragic poisoning threatens the entire family’s sense of security. When Joe Mackey asks Ethel to testify on his behalf in a custody suit, her conflicted loyalties throw the entire family into even more turmoil. Fortunately for Sallee no one took the time to teach her to hate a person based on the skin color.
Praise for Apron Strings
A white Virginian family in the late 1950s struggles to stay together while enduring a failing marriage and racist neighbors in Morony's debut historical drama. Morony writes in a candid voice, refusing to sugarcoat the overt racism and making it clear that a small family in Virginia won't change the bullheaded beliefs of others. Readers will be glad that they've stuck around for the bittersweet ending. APRON STRINGS maintains a remarkable degree of refinement and Southern charm. —Kirkus Reviews
"Thoughtful and deeply moving, Apron Strings is... a masterful narrative that is both beguiling and flawlessly executed. With a meticulous ear for dialogue Morony's diction is simply exquisite, effortlessly capturing the cultural identities of her leading characters in flowing prose. It's an absolute joy to read...For readers who appreciate finer literatre, Apron Strings is an elegantly wrapped gift that delights... it is recommended without reservation!" —Book Viral Review
"Complex and multi-layered, Apron Strings is a deftly written and compelling read from beginning to end. Author Mary Morony is able to showcase fully developed characters and a superbly crafted story that will linger in the mind long after the novel is finished and set back upon the shelf. "Apron Strings" is highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library general fiction collections." —Midwest Book Review
Q&A with Mary Morony
What are three things people may not know about you?
At the risk of being a real Debbie Downer I am massively insecure about spelling. It is such a challenge that there are days when I can’t cobble enough correct letters together in an order to find the word in spell check, thank God forspell check. On those days, I have to rely heavily on synonyms until I discovered that Google’s search engines are masters at finding a word I can’t spell well enough to find it in the dictionary. Like in the adage: it’s an ill wind that blows nobody good, my affliction is not without benefit, my vocabulary has expanded considerably because of it. Paying more attention has helped. I’m discovering that I tend to get most of the right letters rounded up just not necessarily in the right order. Perhaps if I gave up the notion that I can’t spell I would get better at it. It’s a move in the right direction. As Ethel says, “Change comes slow, but it do come.”
I hate to go to parties. My husband is a total people person. Where are there the most people? Parties, of course! If he had his way, which he often doesn’t—I’m bossy, what can I say— he’d go to a party every night. I, on the other hand, am an introverted recluse. I look at caves fondly as a real possibility for a future dwelling place. If I have to go to a party, I go with the attitude of hurry-up let’s go, so we can get home sooner. If I really had my way, I would take that thought to the next logical step, which would be: let’s just not go at all. Marriage being a two-way street, every once in a while I have to suck up, act like a grown up, and go out. The funny thing is, I almost always have a good time.
Contradiction is my name. Here is just one: Remember, I said parties are not my thing? They aren’t, but I love giving parties. I’m not wild about dealing with the guests, but the other facets of entertaining, I am all over, like Martha Stewart. Love it, love it, love it!
You might conclude from what I just said that I don’t like people. Don’t jump too quickly to a conclusion, for you would be in error. I love to watch people. They are my inspiration. Like a kid on an egg hunt, I pick up tidbits, facial expressions, phrasings, foibles and all manner of human idiosyncrasies.
When I find myself out with people I can’t help interacting and having fun. Yikes, I’m going to stop here before someone locks me away.
What has been your greatest challenge as a writer? Have you been able to overcome it?
Discipline is my primo challenge. Not the discipline that demands that I sit down and write. I’ve got that handled. Not the discipline that requires that I show up, or that I overcome my laziness. This one can be tricky, however, I am on to most of the tricks. Nor is it the discipline to see beyond the siren’s song of there are so many other things to do. Sometimes I just go do them and then come back to write. The discipline I grapple with most is the thought of Who wants to hear what I have to say? I must master this one every time I start to write anything, even a shopping list. Who indeed, besides me? The most challenging discipline for me is for me to want to hear what I have to write.
What is your favorite scene in Apron Strings?
Rather than issue a spoiler alert, I will suffice it to say something dreadful has just happened near the end of the book. It’s tiny little scene. Ethel and all of the authority figures are heaping all of the rage and grief from the event onto Ethel. Sallee is sitting outside of Ethel’s closed bedroom door her sole ally. She is reaching out to an unresponsive Ethel through the door. The scene is tender, full of pathos and conveys sacrificial love in only eight lines.
Which writer(s) have or do inspire you?
Mark Twain’s attitude, wit, crankiness or maybe cynicism, humor, ability with the language and most of all his characters inspire me all day long. The man is genius. I think spending an afternoon with him would be divine, assuming he was in a good mood.
Oscar Wilde engenders so much longing, to be able to write like he did. He might well be the wittiest man that ever lived. I can only imagine how much fun was his repartee.
What is your favorite non-writing pastime?
I can’t choose one. I love walking in the woods with my dogs, assuming it is not blistering hot or in the midst of tick season.
I love going to the gym. The one I go to is like a grownup’s sandbox. It is the only place I go where you can talk about interesting things without the need for small talk.
Another of my favorite things to do is to prepare a meal I have never made before. I love cooking and especially like to try things, new to my palette or repertoire Remember I am a contradiction, so I don’t do it often.
Mary Morony author of Apron Strings is one of six children. She was born in Charlottesville, Virginia and had the good fortune of being raised by her family’s maid Lottie. She taught me love and acceptance with warm, loving humor and unending patience. It was a time and place of segregated schools and water fountains, as well as restaurants and movie theaters that prohibited black customers. She remembers the hurled epithets and smashed windows of a society boiling in hatred.
Besides five siblings she had four children of her own. As if that didn't provide sufficient material about family chaos, at the age of forty-something, with a high school daughter and a four-year-old girl still at home, she decided to get a college degree. Mary likes to say she earned, and she does mean earned, a bachelors of arts in English at the University of Virginia, with a concentration in creative writing. More recently she has pursued additional studies under the tutelage of her seven-year-old granddaughter. Her refresher course in childhood perspective was invaluable in writing this book.
The author lives on a farm in Orange County, Virginia, with her husband, four dogs, and her daughter’s cat.
Mary says, “The relationship I was privileged to experience taught me much about the human heart and the redemptive power of love, especially between races.”
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