If you liked To Kill a Mockingbird and The Help, you’ll love Apron Strings. It’s the quintessential story of life in the south, where racism and Southern charm coexist. It’s narrated by 7-year-old Sallee, who looks to Ethel, the family’s black maid as her surrogate mother. Mary Morony’s rich characters, twisting plot and beautiful writing show that love has no color. —, Actress
New Tricks and Old Dogs
A guest post by Mary Morony
It didn’t take a neurological degree in veterinary medicine to know something was very wrong when my beautiful black and white Great Dane’s gait changed. Hagar’s long, lanky, Jimmy Stewartesque swagger had morphed into a Rose Bowl Parade float with a right front flat. Two very expensive visits to the vet confirmed that something was indeed wrong.
My two and half year old darling dog has Wobbler’s Syndrome a neurological disorder where the vertebrae triangulate for reasons unknown. The triangulation eventually causes pinching of nerves and ultimately the spinal column. Although there are surgeries, laser treatments, and pharmacological avenues to alleviate symptoms, there is no known cure.
The prognosis is a shorter life span with paralysis a strong likelihood. Of course, I have just given you the worst-case scenario, because it’s the nature of a drama queen. Fortunately it is not Hagar’s nature.
He is decidedly unaffected by his disorder, one could almost say oblivious. When we go for walks, he leads the way except down the drive where the gravel is thickest. It hurts his feet, but then it hurts his sister’s feet, too. He races to the various groundhog dens to check for activity as he always did, arriving first. While he may not tear around the woods with the abandoned he once employed, there is no discontent. When he does hang back or tires he comes along side me making it know that it is time to get his back scratched— one of the distinct advantages of being and having a Great Dane—the perfect height for getting a back scratched in transit.
He has figured out how to conserve his energy so that when we near the end of the walk, when we come out into a big field, he can race and romp with his sister with as much vigor and joy as always. If you didn’t know there was something wrong you couldn’t tell, unless of course, you choose to focus on it.
Quite possibly Hagar thought I needed more than one lesson on this particular subject this time from the opposite vantage point. On our very next walk, we ran into a problem. The fences along our walk are electrified high tensile cattle fence. Hagar has hit those fences a time or two and had developed a very healthy regard for them.
All of the gates along our walking path are electrified wire strung across the opening with a hook on a spring to keep the wire taught and hot. The springs on most of these ‘gates’ are too tight for me to open easily, so I take a stick along so that I can hold the wire up for the dogs to go under. Since Hagar has hit the fence on a number of occasions, he is very cautious when approaching these gates. Trust would not be his first thought.
I lifted the wire. Two of the dogs ran right under. As luck would have it, Hagar had hung back. When I turned to coax him through, the wire slipped off the stick hitting him on the tail. Good Lord, you should have heard the wailing. He shrieked and whined like a ninny. I am almost certain he wasn’t shocked, just scared. The bad news, there were four more gates along the path to home.
At this point, Hagar’s abiding credo was you can fool me once and that’s on you, but fool me twice and that’s on me so he was having nothing to do with anymore of this going under the wire, period. If he was going home, I was going to have to open the gate all of the way. Once the offending wire was cleared from his path, he would then streak through it shrieking as if he had been hit with a hot poker, which is why I don’t believe he was shocked in the first place. We made it home, although, he whinged shamelessly through every gate since he was unable to take his focus off the earlier debacle. Who is being the drama queen now?
He absolutely refused to walk with me when I asked if anyone wanted to go a day later. Rather, he chose to stay at home and bark the entire time my other two dogs and I hiked around the farm. His deep base woofing could be heard for miles
The next day I brought along a leash and lead my now recalcitrant walker through the first gate. That was all it took. He zipped under wires without a second thought form then on. He just needed a little patience to help him face his fears and poof they are gone in an instant.
If I can’t take my focus off my problems than all I need to apply is a little patience. I’m learning, but it is hard to teach this old dog new tricks.
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
About the Author
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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