Cover Image: The Dry Grass of August

The Dry Grass of August

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In 1954, Jubie Watts left her home in North Carolina for a vacation in Florida, along with her three sisters, mother, and maid, Mary Luther. As they travel further south, Jubie begins to notice more obvious signs of anti-integration and segregationist policies against their maid. And then tragedy strikes, and Jubie must find out what she really believes in. 
It was a stunning debut novel, and the descriptions of racial discrimination and other 1950s details seemed very accurate and well explained. The settings were nicely described, and Jubie was a fully thought-out character who learns a lot throughout the course of the book. The later half is very action-packed and gets very interesting. It’s overall a fascinating and very sad historical novel that paints a picture of growing up in the segregationist United States.
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Some stories are so hard to comprehend as a human being, it is difficult to write up a proper review. Compliments to the author, this book made me realize I needed a books-that-matter shelf on Goodreads.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of the book.
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In the fall of 1954, the life of Jubie Watts is about to change.  It all started with a trip with her mother, siblings and their maid to Florida to visit her uncle.  After a relaxing vacation with her family, they hitch up to visit more family when a car accident in Georgia will change the life of little Jubie Watts.  Given the setting of the pre-segregation South, Anna Jean Mayhew drew not only from her experience living in Charlotte, NC during that time but also tones of history (and novels) set at that time.

I found this writing to be juvenile and maybe that is because the narrator is a juvenile herself.  The characters felt very one dimensional and I found myself wanting more for character development and the action within the novel.  In my opinion, the novel didn't delve deep enough into the political climate at the time, which she was trying to address at numerous areas within the novel.  This novel just fell flat for me.

Thank you to Netgalley and Kensington Books for a copy of this book in exchange of my honest review.
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This is a gripping book, taking us to another time when racial segregation and discrimination were openly practiced. Jubie, the young girl, holds our attention as she experiences love and brutality. Beautifully written - challenges us to think. Highly recommend.
I provided this honest review in exchange for a free advance reader's copy.
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This book had me captivated from the very first sentence.   The Watts family are a wealthy white family, living in Charlotte, North Carolina.  As the story begins, the main character, 13 year old Jubie, is in the family car, on her way to Florida with her mother, siblings and the family's black maid, Mary Luther.  Jubie has just endured a particularly brutal beating courtesy of her father for letting her sister's boyfriend read her sister's diary.  As the trip progresses, Jubie is made aware of how much harder things are for Mary, because she is black, from having to use outhouses instead of indoor restrooms, to observing curfews in some towns.  Jubie loves Mary very much and Mary returns that love in countless ways.  When Mary becomes yet another victim of deadly racist forces, Jubie suffers a huge loss but gains an inner strength and confidence to do what she knows is right, regardless of what her family thinks or the possible consequences.  

A fascinating and sobering read.  Very strongly recommend.
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This is a beautifully written, debut book by Anna Jean Mayhew. The story is told through the eyes of thirteen year old June Watts, aka Jubie, a white girl growing up in Charlotte, North Carolina. Jubie is unaware of the racial tensions, as Mary, the black woman who has raised her, is her friend who she loves dearly. Mary has always been there for Jubie, through her father`s rages/beatings as well as caring for her during her mother's periods when she is emotionally absent. and an often emotionally distant and negligent mother. In August of 1954, Jubie, her mother and siblings and Mary take a trip to Florida to spend time at the beach with their uncle and cousins. No one could have imagined the tragic turn this trip will take. This is a coming of age story that I did not want to stop listening to.

Living in the twenty-first century, the type of racism depicted in stories of this time, is hard to picture. We still have many racial issues today, but segregation, school and busing issues are a distant memory. I loved that Jubie was blind to colour. She loved Mary, befriended black children and was unaware of many things going on around her. Unfortunately, she was in for a rude awakening. It reminded of the fact that children are taught to hate, it is not inborn and we need to do better with our next generation. The character of Mary was very well-developed and I loved her quiet, kind, yet strong personality throughout the story. I had a love/hate relationship with the character of Jubie's mother. She had certain restrictions based on the time the story was set, but I thought she was weak much of the time. She did have her moments where I thought she was going to do right, but again, often let Jubie down. Her father was just a nasty, mean and hypocritical man who I disliked throughout the whole story, which just shows what a great job the author did writing this character. Overall, I enjoyed this story and recommend it to anyone who reads and enjoys Historical Fiction, especially in the U. S.
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Set during the 1950's, this book follows 13 year old Jubie, her mother, three siblings, and the family's black maid, Mary Luther, as they travel to Florida on vacation. As they travel south, it becomes increasingly hard for Mary to find restrooms and places to sleep.  When they are in a car accident, they are forced to stop and wait for repairs.  When Jubie, her oldest sister, and Mary are caught outdoors after dark, tragedy awaits for Mary.

Jubie was a well developed character who seemed older than her 13 years.  Her point of view was particularly interesting, as both an observer and a member of the family.  Unfortunately, the plot tended to ramble quite a bit, moving back and forth in time, which was a bit off-putting.  Despite this criticism, I did enjoy the book and would read more from the author.  4 out of 5 stars.
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This is a family saga that deals with racism and segregation in the south. It is beautifully told and the characters develop well throughout the story. 

I would like to thank Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book free of charge. This is my honest and unbiased opinion of it.
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This is an amazing book.  It is a family saga and so much more.    I thought the characters were well developed and interesting.  I felt like part of the family.  I like the writing style and the book held my interest till the end.  I am thankful to netgalley for the gift of the arc of this book.  The opinion is my own
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I received an ARC of this novel from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

This novel is set in a time of segregation and conflicts between those holding racist views and progressives are rampant.  Interesting novel--great characters.
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In its simplest form “The Dry Grass of August” is the story of a family’s summer trip from North Carolina to Florida in 1954, as told by Jubie, the 13-year-old daughter. It is so much more than that, however. Throughout this trip, the author weaves together issues of racism, alcoholism, child abuse, and infidelity. There is also, however, love, grace, resilience and redemption.  The author’s ability to make you feel the dysfunction of this family is powerful and is no doubt a reflection of her superb writing. For me, just about the time I might have become overwhelmed by the darkness of the book, a thread of light was thrown out, guiding the reader out of the darkness.  By the end of the book, the small thread of light becomes a beam shedding light into all the dark corners and allowing the reader to leave the book with a sense of hope. While “The Dry Grass of August” is not an easy read considering the subjects covered, it is an important one. And, it is a book I thoroughly recommend. The author has a new book, "Tomorrow's Bread" coming out in early 2019 and based on this first book I know it too will be a must read! I was honored to receive a free copy of this book from NetGalley and the Publisher, Kensington Books in exchange for an honest review.
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Amazing read! The author wrote a story that was interesting and moved at a pace that kept me engaged. The characters were easy to invest in.
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This book will stick with me for a long time. In the beginning, I felt comfortable and warm because the book reminded me of "The Help." But as the subject matter dove deeper into the subject of race, I started to see parallels into today's society in terms of integration/segregation. A book that is on point for today's world. This is a great read that will leave you awe struck by the wonderful moving story Anna Jean Mayhew has woven.
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The Dry Grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew was an inspiring and stirring novel that reminded me of The Help, that I read many years ago. I was born in the 1950's and lived in New York my whole life. When I was in high school, I attended a leadership program where I met and became friends with several participants that resided in places like Atlanta, Georgia, Charleston, South Carolina and Charlotte, North Carolina. At the conclusion of the program,, I stayed in touch with several of the participants who became my friends. I was invited, along with several others to visit and stay at one of the participant's homes. At breakfast, the first morning, my food was served to me by  their black maid. I remembered feeling uncomfortable as my food was served to me instead of just helping myself. As I read The Dry Grass of August, these memories came back to me. Although this is a work of fiction, I was really affected by the cruelty and multitude of laws that Black people living in the South during that time had to endure and accept as their way of life. Anna Jean Mayhew described all these things in her novel in a very believable way.

The story began in August of 1954 as Jubie Watts, a young girl of thirteen, whose real name was June, and her three siblings and her mother finished loading all their things in their Packard to head off to Florida for a 2 week family vacation. They were going without Jubie's father. He was staying at home. Besides Jubie's two sisters, brother and mother, Mary Luther, their maid or "girl" was accompanying them on the vacation to help her mother with the younger children and to do any work that might need to be done. Mary had been with the family for a very long time. Jubie could not remember a time that Mary was not there. Mary was kind, loving, compassionate and hard working. She also possessed good common sense. Mary genuinely cared for Jubie and her siblings and offered sound advice when they were conflicted over something. Jubie, in particular, maybe more than her siblings, sought out Mary's wisdom and love as she battled her feelings about how distant her mother was to her and how to cope with her abusive father. Jubie held a special love for Mary and Mary held a special love and understanding for Jubie. As the family left their home in Charlotte, North Carolina and headed for Florida, Jubie was upset to discover that people of color could not stay in the same hotels as whites and that they had to use an outhouse instead of indoor bathrooms. These things did not sit well with Jubie. As their vacation progressed, Jubie was shocked by the extreme measures of segregation that Mary had to obey.  When their vacation ended in tragedy, Jubie's love for Mary and doing what she felt she had to do to honor Mary consumed Jubie and forced her to take many risks to accomplish what she felt she should do in her heart for Mary, even if her family was not supportive.

The Dry Grass of August, written by Anna Jean Mayhew was a very poignant novel about how people of color were treated and regarded in the south during the 1950's. It was also about the relationship and love one child and the family's maid developed. It was heartbreaking at times but also warming as Jubie questioned the actions of others around her and came to understand what she felt compelled to finally do despite the reactions of others. It was a very well written book. Once I started it I had a hard time putting it down. Jubie's character grabbed me from the beginning. Her narration was honest, sometimes shocking, but always showed her caring and positive ways. I really enjoyed reading The Dry Grass of August and would recommend it highly.

I received a complimentary copy of The Dry Grass of August from the publisher through Netgalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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A young girl's coming of age story set in Charlotte North Carolina. This debut novel set in the 1950's features a riveting depiction of Southern life in the throes of segregation. The family has always had a black maid, Mary. She cooks,cleans and compensates for the father's rage and a mother that cares more about her looks than her children. A family vacation to Florida takes a shocking turn and now the family must learn how to deal with the tragedy. Jubie's eyes become opened to her parents failings and limitations as she awakens to adulthood because of her circumstances. A must read coming of age story!
Pub Date 29 Jan 2019 
I was given a complimentary copy of this book from Kensington Books through NetGalley. Thank you. All opinions expressed are my own.
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First, thank you to the publisher and author for gifting me a digital ARC of this title via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

I have never heard of this book or author, but after finding it on netgalley was interested in giving this a try. Unfortunately, it wasn't the book for me. I thought the segregation issues, while relevant to the time and the characters, seemed to be overly used and heavy throughout the book. I felt like the author just kept repeating and repeating the same issue. I had a hard time finding interest in the story. The parents were awful and abusive- each in their own way. The author included history into why and how the abuse started after the war and through alcohol abuse. I just found myself wanting to read quickly to get through and get it done. I never really enjoyed reading it. Not for me.
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EXCERPT: In August of 1954, we took our first road trip without Daddy, and Stell got to use the driver's license she'd had such a fit about. It was just a little card saying she was Estelle Annette Watts, that she was white, with hazel eyes and brown hair. But her having a license made that trip different from any others, because if she hadn't had it, we never would have been stuck in Sally's Motel Park in Claxton, Georgia, where we went to buy fruit cakes and had a wreck instead. And Mary would still be with us. 

ABOUT THIS BOOK: The Dry Grass of August offers a riveting depiction of Southern life in the throes of segregation and what it will mean for a young girl on her way to adulthood and for the woman who means the world to her. 

On a scorching day in August 1954, thirteen-year-old Jubie Watts leaves Charlotte, North Carolina, with her family for a Florida vacation. Crammed into the Packard along with Jubie are her three siblings, her mother, and the family's black maid, Mary Luther. For as long as Jubie can remember, Mary has been there cooking, cleaning, compensating for her father's rages and her mother's benign neglect, and loving Jubie unconditionally. 

Bright and curious, Jubie takes note of the anti-integration signs they pass and of the racial tension that builds as they journey further south. But she could never have predicted the shocking turn their trip will take. Now, in the wake of tragedy, Jubie must confront her parents failings and limitations, decide where her own convictions lie, and make the tumultuous leap to independence.

Infused with the intensity of a changing time, here is a story of hope, heartbreak, and the love and courage that can transform us from child to adult, wounded to indomitable.

MY THOUGHTS: This is a quietly powerful book that is going to merit a second reading from me at some point. Its characters, particularly Jubie, will stay with me for some time. She has a good heart, and I would like to know what happens to her as an adult. 

I wasn't quite born when this book starts out, and yet this time feels as familiar to me as if I had lived it. And it is a tribute to Mayhew's writing skills that I did feel like I was living this road trip along with Jubie and her family. 

I can remember the reports of racial unrest over the integration of schools and buses when I was a child. I had never realized that there were curfews, and had never thought about the difficulties encountered when travelling with a colored maid. The Dry Grass of August was an eye-opener in more ways than one. There is something very 'personal' about this book which has been lacking in other similar books I have previously read. 

Particularly impressive is the fact that this is Mayhew's debut novel - at the age of seventy-one. I feel that there is hope for me yet!

The one fly in the ointment for me was the unresolved question of the room at the back of Bill's warehouse. Link says to Jubie at Mary's funeral, 'Ask your father about the room behind the warehouse.' Despite it coming up again, we never actually find out about the room, what it was for, or why Link thought Jubie needed to be aware of it. A day after finishing this read, that room is still niggling at me. I want to know!

Beautiful cover!


THE AUTHOR: Anna Jean (A.J.) Mayhew’s first novel, The Dry Grass of August, won the Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Fiction, and was a finalist for the Book Award from the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance. She has been writer-in-residence at Moulin à Nef Studio Center in Auvillar, France, and was a member of the first Board of Trustees of the North Carolina Writers' Network. A native of Charlotte, NC, A.J. has never lived outside the state, although she often travels to Europe with her Swiss-born husband. Her work reflects her vivid memories of growing up in the segregated South. A.J.—a mother and
grandmother—now lives in a small town in the North Carolina Piedmont with her husband and their French-speaking cat.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Kensington Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Dry Grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions. 

Please refer to my profile page or the about page on for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my page
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I truly enjoyed reading this well-written book with an endearing cast of characters. This book felt like a blend of The Great Alone and The Kitchen House - if you liked either you will want to grab this book!
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Writing: 3/5 Plot: 3/5 Characters: 3/5 Overall pleasure reading: 2/5

A coming of age story in a racially divided South.  Told from 13-year old Jubie Watts’ perspective, the story follows the Watts family as they travel with their “girl” (their 48-year old negro maid) through the South in August, 1954.  From anti-integration signs to a lack of motels and bathrooms willing to accept Mary to downright nastiness and hostility, the narrative heads towards the bad end hinted at in the very first paragraph of the book. 

The real story, however, is not about this “bad end.”  It’s about Jubie trying to understand how and why different people are treated so very differently.  To her, Mary is someone she loves, someone who is the “heart” of their family — but her family, friends, and the white world at large, at best, treat Mary as a useful piece of furniture.

The narrative alternates between the events of August 1954 and the previous eight years with Mary in the household.  In some ways, the story feels like a jumble of experiences, without the synthesis and understanding that might come to the narrator later in life.  The characters (other than Jubie) are a little two-dimensional and several story elements are left unresolved.  In this, the tale is a realistic depiction of the world as seen through the eyes of a 13-year old.

The book includes a lot of historically accurate detail about the time, and the story is compelling — but it felt a bit too long and somewhat oversimplified.
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The Dry Grass of August

A touching coming of age story set among the turmoil of overt discrimination and racial tensions in the Deep South in the 1950’s. 


Road Trip! It’s a hot August in 1954 and thirteen year old Jubie Watts, her family and their maid are all headed to Pensacola, Florida in their Packard. Everyone except Jubie’s dad is going. Jubie’s sister, Stell just got her drivers license and can’t wait to share the driving with Jubie’s mom. Sitting in the back with Jubie and her siblings is Mary Luther is the Watts’ black maid, who has been cooking and cleaning for the family as long as Jubie can remember. As the family travels from Charlotte NC across Southern Georgia, Jubie cannot help but become aware of the anti-integration signs and discrimination  that exist everywhere they stop. And then tragedy strikes.  Jubie, overcome with grief and her own moral convictions, takes action into her own hands. Showing independence and courage, Jubie does what is right and is transformed.

THE DRY GRASS OF AUGUST is a touching chronicle of a period of time in Jubie’s life that would forever define who she would be. It’s a coming of age story emanating from a tragic event. My favorite part of the book was Jubie’s compassion, strength and growing awareness of the world she lives in. Jubie’s relationship with Mary was typical of girls raised in the South by a working or distant mother.  I appreciated Mary’s role of quiet strength. 

The writing was good, and it was a quick read. I struggled slightly with the chapter jumping back and forth in time, but I generally liked the way the story was told. There were a multitude of characters and issues brought out in the book including child abuse, infidelity, rape, racism, suicide, and embezzlement just to name a few, and as a result the story branched in many different directions.  This is ANNA JEAN MAYHEW’s debut novel, which was an eighteen year process. Thanks to Netgalley, Kensington and Anna Jean Mayhew for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Publisher 	Kensington Books
Published 	January 29, 2019
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