I felt that Father’s altogether human blindness could not be held against him. The dangerous ramifications that existed for his wife and children when he undertook to extricate himself from his embarrassing and humiliating situation in Nashville he could not have been expected to foresee.
A Summons to Memphis by Peter Taylor won the Pulitzer Prize in 1987.
I’m not sure how I feel about this book. On the one hand it has a real ‘sense of place’ for the South; on the other hand, it can leave you wondering what all the fuss is about. Set in Tennessee, it is basically a story about how a domineering father and a move from Nashville to Memphis affected a family.
But again, I ask — why all the fuss? Why would a move leave everyone in the family so altered? What if they had moved to California instead of another southern city in the same state? What if they had had to move every year as some families do? What if they had had to endure much more painful occurrences such as divorce, death, sickness, or violence? So what if the father thwarted some of their plans? Move away. Act like a grown up and make your own decisions instead of acting like a child for the rest of your life.
Or perhaps that was Peter Taylor’s point. After living in the South for over 15 years, I’ve seen some maneuvering behind the pleasantries, some manipulation behind the politeness. No one saying what they really mean or feel. The exaggeration of small problems into a lifelong battle. Not being able to get away from family, on both the parents’ and the adult children’s side. This novel has all of the above. In that sense and in the descriptions of both cities, I do feel the book conveys a strong sense of the South, but some readers may be bored by the relatively small problems faced by the family in this book. In addition, there were quite a few instances in the story where Taylor seems to repeat himself and I found myself asking, ‘Didn’t he just say that?’ Very strange.
Recommended for those interested in Southern literature or Pulitzer winners.
1986, 224 pp.