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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
Magnolia Song: A Saga of the New South by J. Robert Towery is a monumental saga of love, loss, community, and familial relationships, set in Memphis, Tennessee, and elsewhere around the deep south of the United States. It tells of the interlocking relationships within a community that are built up and then often destroyed over a period greater than a century. Gator Bates is a real estate tycoon in Memphis with a penchant for heavy drinking and telling wild, outlandish stories to his mates at the exclusive Collegiate Club. Rory McVey is a businessman who inherited his daddy’s fortune and then proceeded to lose the bulk of it in a series of poor and ill-judged investments. When a fight between the pair erupts one evening in the bar of the Collegiate Club, the reader is taken through the deep and often sordid history of their families and the reason behind the animosity between them. This roller-coaster journey encompasses four generations of their families and stories of incest, violence, drugs, murder, and the all-terrifying members of the infamous Aryan Brotherhood, which has a massive influence in the South’s criminal underworld.
Magnolia Song is a sweeping, powerful novel that exposes the tenuous links that create and maintain the veneer of gentility and civilization that we take as representing the South. Author J. Robert Towery has created a cast of characters who are as interesting, complex, and broad as the south itself. The presentation of the book itself allows it to stand out and be above the competition. It qualifies as a work of extreme professionalism and thoughtful organization. I particularly appreciate the pictures and designs that helped to illuminate and bring the prose to life. The web of lies, deceit, and secrets that the author spins within these characters is what makes this tale so fascinating and utterly absorbing. I particularly enjoyed the character of Taylor who was written so beautifully and emotionless that it was the perfect embodiment of whom she had become. This is no lightweight story at over five hundred pages but the length allows the author to fully explore the characters, their motivations, and the structure of southern society both today and through history. I was absorbed completely by the story and was able to easily read the entire novel in just two sittings. It will grasp readers with its realistic characters, and tense and gripping action arcs, along with instilling a desire for certain characters to ultimately get the just deserts they so richly deserve. Any author who can draw his readership into a such wholehearted commitment to his characters has achieved his goal and J. Robert Towney has certainly done that. I can highly recommend this excellent book.