The King Who Made Paper Flowers is a parable for our time. Beautiful characters. Prophetic it is...a gift. It should be required reading for anyone even considering public office. There are simply not enough flowers or flower-makers to go around in these contentious and barbaric times.
The Unfinished Prophecy
I have written you before to compliment you on your fine books. I dare say The King Who Made Paper Flowers is your finest. I found the book because I intermittently troll the internet looking for the most recent stuff from you and Garth Stein. Since I was heading out on a trip I first bought the Kindle version. Having just returned I have ordered 3 hardcovers. You probably hear high praise regularly so let me add my voice. In my view, you have captured the essence of human kindness and juxtaposed it perfectly with the mean spiritedness of institutional power. You have captured poverty without romanticizing the poor and you have demonstrated the power of redemption without being religious. I thank you very much.
Thank you for giving this world your gift of Bogmeadow's Wish. I read your book twice in a row in 3 days...and I will read it again a third time. There is so much life, so much laughter, friendship, love, sorrow...Your book mirrors a Finn Coghlan in everyone, for somewhere out there is one's own Sally Cavanaugh.
Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed reading The Valley of Light recently. I have posted a 5-star review on Amazon. What a wonderful, uplifting novel. James Hilton's LOST HORIZON is my favorite novel, but this one comes a close second. I will be checking out some of your other work based on this book.
I recently met you at your Foxtale book signing. While we were chatting you strongly encouraged me to read The Book of Marie. I sat down yesterday with Marie. I completed this book last night. It is the most inspiring and moving book I have ever read, Marie has bumped, To Kill a Mockingbird (which until now was my all time fav) to #2. I just loved this book. You have such a beautiful way with words. Thank you.
The Book of Marie touched me as no other has. I read it straight through and then immediately started at page one again. I have only read it once since, but eagerly anticipate my next reading. Also I have read all of your novels, many a couple of times. Your range of characters, subjects, impressions, compassion, and human traits is incredible.
I just finished The Book of Marie and I think it is your VERY BEST!!! Not only did you capture the atmosphere and feelings of that time, your prose is so profound and I found myself underlining descriptions that will be with me forever; e.e., "The goodness of history between people is powerful..." " I was dissecting when I should have been embracing..." "In autumn, the colors of the trees could be breathed from
the leaves and the odor of the colors was as euphoric as a narcotic..." "Iced tea is the Southerner's liqueur, I think..." and, "My God, getting to the truth--as vague as it always is--is an opening-up." Mr. Kay, this is a beautifully written book and one that has touched me deeply. I am sure I will read it again and again.
I just finished reading The Valley of Light. I loved it and can't wait to read your other books. The Old Man and the Sea came to mind when I read the final chapter about the fish in the Lake of Grief.
Terry, I just finished the last page of the book, Bogmeadow's Wish. It was the most beautiful love story that I have ever read. You just get better with every book that you write. I have a copy of all of your books--several of them are signed--and I treasure each one of them. I hope to be in Hartwell June 5 to see you and to get this book signed. You are the greatest! Please keep on writing! BOGMEADOW'S WISH IS JUST MAGICAL!
Thoughts on The Book of Marie
In 1962 the world was awash in social and political change on many fronts. Independence from colonial powers was spreading through Africa and elsewhere. In the American South, the Civil Rights Movement continued the struggle to overturn segregation in schools and other public institutions. Under court order, on October 1, 1962, James Meredith was the first African-American to be admitted to the University of Mississippi. This same year John Glenn became the first American to orbit Earth, James Watson and Francis Crick received the Nobel Prize for Science for determining the structure of DNA, and Cole Bishop became infamous in his native state of Georgia when a photograph of himself cradling a dying black female civil rights protester appeared in an Atlanta newspaper.
Who? Cole Bishop? If you’ve never heard of Cole Bishop, it’s because you haven’t read Terry Kay’s The Book of Marie (Macon, GA: Mercer University, 2007). And if you haven’t read anything by Georgia novelist Terry Kay, you have been seriously deprived. To delve into any of his books is to have your heart and soul burst open with laughter, tears, suspense, awe and wisdom.
Kay’s best-known book, To Dance With the White Dog, was made into an award-winning film. Of this book, Anne Rivers Siddons said, “(This) is what literature is – or should be – all about, and what the South at its best still is. Terry Kay is simply a miraculous writer, gifted with poetry, integrity and rare vision.”
The Book of Marie is a love story intertwined with the social change of the last half of the twentieth century that saw Jim Crow laws in the South finally struck down. Through his relationship with the eccentric, brilliant and caustic Marie, a transplant from the North, Cole’s eyes are opened to the injustice of the so-called “separate but equal” system of the South that he has until now accepted uncritically. Marie is merciless in her attacks on Cole for his naiveté, but also loving and protective. Too dreamy, she calls him. As their high school friendship develops, they collude in a hilarious fraud to convince their classmates of their great romance. At graduation Marie as valedictorian delivers a scathing appraisal of “the good white people of Overton County:”
“I came to this school, she began in a strong, sure voice, “believing it offered an inferior education. I leave it affirmed in that fact.
“You are good people,” she continued, “but good people are often timid people, and timid people are always afraid of change…
“One of the first things I learned about the history of this town was of the tornado that struck in 1932. Many of you remember it. Many of you had family killed in that destruction. I want to tell you that you are in the path of another tornado, a tornado of change that is gathering strength all around you. It is a tornado that will destroy every tradition you own, sweep away every belief that props you up, assault you like invisible armies. You cannot survive it as you are.
“You will be confused and angry. You will fight back with words and threats. You will vow to stand strong and resist. You will ask yourself, ‘Why is all of this necessary, when things are fine the way they are?’
“But things are not fine.”…
“In twenty years, nothing will be the same.
“You will not work at the same jobs in the same way.
“You will be invaded by people from other nations, looking for jobs, for a chance to be free, and they will teach you things you have never imagined.”…
“Your children will sit in classrooms with red children, yellow children, black children, and you will cry in anguish because you won’t understand what is happening.
“And the answer is so simple: you cannot exist without change.”
After her speech, Marie leaves the South to attend Harvard. Cole goes to college in Atlanta where he also writes for a newspaper.
Quite by accident, he happens to be watching a civil rights protest in Atlanta when a sniper shoots and kills the young black woman standing in front of him. He catches her as she falls, and a photograph of the two blood-spattered young people appears in newspapers across the country. Misreading the situation, the photograph shocks and infuriates Southern whites who project their hatred and fear of race mixing onto him.
As a result of the publicity, Cole loses his job. Eventually he moves to Vermont to become a university professor. Though they go their separate ways, Marie and Cole maintain a lifelong correspondence that deepens and transforms both of them.
Fifty years later, Cole returns for his high school reunion to marvel at how Marie’s prophesies have all come true. In just one lifetime, huge revolutionary changes have occurred.
I graduated from Mercer University, the publisher of The Book of Marie, in 1962. At that time Mercer, a Southern Baptist school, was still segregated, and the Baptist Church on campus refused to allow blacks to worship there. I know the South of that time all too well.
In 1972 I moved to the West Coast where I still live, but I go back South periodically. It has changed, though remnants of the Old South remain. I am still amazed when I visit and see a mixed-race couple casually walking down the street holding hands and no one runs screaming that the sky is falling. Who would have believed that this would have been possible fifty years ago, not to mention that the U.S. would have a black President, with an African name no less?
The world needs both dreamers and realists, does it not? It is easy to despair when we consider all the problems facing the planet in this first quarter of a new century: climate change; poverty; racism; growing disparity between the rich and poor; more wars; less peace. Optimist that I am, I believe that every generation will rise to the occasion with its own dreamers and realists to meet the challenges of their time. I trust this generation will do the same if the rest of us will just get out of their way.
Vision and hope are two of the priceless gifts Terry Kay gives the reader in his beautiful books. Keep writing, Terry Kay, about how it was, how it is, and how it can be!