Cover Image: Learning to Speak Southern

Learning to Speak Southern

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Member Reviews

Initially, I was drawn to the book by the title – expecting (and getting) several linguistic moments that were something to treasure. But the story of Lexi and her often immature responses to difficult moments was wearing, and the hits just kept on coming. From childhood traumas and hurts that caused her to leave in the first place to the loss of a child in the early chapters of the book, we are inundated with Lexi’s difficulties and her problematic approach to dealing with them.  Obviously, a lover of words and their origins, we are presented with several different languages, words, origins and meanings: as this is Lexi’s way to escape stress and calm herself. While I think it was meant to be charming, there was a feeling that it was meant to impress us with Lexi’s (or by extension) the author’s intelligence.  While I have no issues with smart and clever insets into a story – the purpose quickly was lost to me and it felt more like a plot device when fresh approaches to dealing with the multitude of issues – and there were many – that Lexi faced.  

Sure, you’ve grown up and had a life – you are going to have unresolved feelings about something: and we all get that. But it felt as if nothing was ‘sorted’ for her – rather her tendency to dash off and recite words, meanings and origins seemed to get in the way.  And we do have people who want to embrace her on her return – and who are, quite rightly, looking for answers – it's not all Lexi on the search. But she’s reluctant, then engaged when she discovers her mother was unsettled and a bit wild too, and we then get into secrets that have been long buried.   

It all became a bit much for me – even as lyrical as much of the writing was, and my interest in the multiple words and origins did not fade – simply my desire to see Lexi yet again retreating into her own interior.  It wasn’t a bad book –but perhaps less able to fulfill the premise of the synopsis, with a bit of a twist at the end that felt rushed, unnecessary and even a bit disconnected from the story that has been crafted to that point.  Take a chance and a few hours and make your own choices on this one – it wasn’t for me –but you may find it just what you were looking for.  

I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.  

Review first appeared at <a href=” https://wp.me/p3OmRo-aVL /” > <a> I am, Indeed </a>
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3 1/2 stars.

Y’all, I am going to be honest.  I had this book on my radar simply because one of my favorite Southern authors talked about it.  I went in completely blind.  Despite....Because...of that?!?   I thoroughly enjoyed this title. The novel itself was lyrical to me.  The undercurrent was slow and steady, in the best possible way.

I look at it as a coming-of-age story.  (We don't all come of age as a teenager ya know) Family drama.  Add in a drop of Southern and here we are.  This is not the traditional Southern book.  Aside from the fact the story takes place in Memphis....It could have happened anywhere in the country.  Despite that.... I enjoyed it ;-)

You have a story with two very defined narrators.  Margaret and Lex. Margaret's perspective coming to Lex through letters as she comes home, after a long time away.   That perspective was very well done.  The perpetual theme running through the novel.... what does family mean?  The answer....it will surprise you.                          

I had never read Lindsey Rogers Cook before.... I’m so glad I started with Learning to Speak Southern.
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Lex fled her life at her college graduation.  She left without saying goodbye to her father, her beloved Cami, or her best friend, Grant.  Lex lived a nomadic life traveling to various parts of the world using the excuse of "living" and "exploring," when she was really trying to find a place to hide.  After becoming pregnant from a liaison with a virtual stranger, Lex goes into pre-term labor and loses her son.  With no money, and the father of the baby deserting her, Lex has no choice but to contact Cami for help.  Cami insists that Lex return to Memphis, and once she is there, gives her a series of projects designed to help her face her past.  Cami has possession of a series of unread journal entries from Lex's deceased mother that she hopes will help Lex understand her mother.  As Lex faces her past, she also realizes that has been running away from her problems instead of facing them.

The opening scene of the book was not what I was expecting from the description of the book - to the point I went back to re-read the description to make sure I was reading the book I thought I was.  As sad as the opening scene was, my first impression of Lex was that she ran away from her home, her life, and her family and embarked on a years-long pity party and was somewhat self-centered.   Not that she (or any woman) deserved to have lost a baby, but I felt like she was very put out that she had no where else to turn except the family she had so publicly ditched.  As the story continued and we found out what  a mess Lex's mom had been, it became more clear why she ran away.  Lex had experienced a lifetime of trauma, and even though Cami loved her like her mother should have loved her, it was not enough to overcome the trauma.  

The story grew on me and I found myself saying, "Oh come on, Lex!  Just do what Cami wants you to do so you can  get the next letter!"  The big message I got from this story is how missteps, secrets, and trauma can scar multiple generations.  I also liked that the ending was unusual and will certainly be a surprise to many readers.  This  book was just...different.  I don't know that I would recommend this as a beach read, but I can also see it being a beach read because after finishing it, the reader will certainly spend time watching the waves and contemplating what truths they may be running from and events from their past that may have unintentionally defined them.  The deepness of this book sneaks up on you.
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Besides my absolute obsession with how gorgeous the cover of this book is, I am torn on how to feel about Lindsey Rogers Cook's "Learning to Speak Southern." 

I was drawn to the premise and immediately pulled in by the first scene where we find Lex in the hospital mourning her prematurely stillborn baby boy - all while the baby's daddy is scooting out the door as fast as humanly possible. My emotions were definitely tugged during many of the scenes, but at the same time, I never felt a true connection with any of the characters. Well, I take that back...there was one I truly despised, but hate is an easy feeling to create without having to make the character very deep. I also felt the twist at the end was ... ... ... odd. Part of me thought it was a tiny bit sweet, while another felt it weird and unnecessary.

Another piece of the book that was strange for me to deal with was the many, many, many times that Lex went to her mental safe place where she would repeat the origin of words and their meaning. I know it was supposed to come off as charming, however, I felt annoyed with it after awhile. I will say, though, that I listened to this on audio, so I think had I read it as a physical book, they could have stayed charming because I could have quickly glanced over them instead of having the narrator read every single syllable. 

Overall, it was a fine read. I'm not sorry I read it, but it's not one I would reread or even necessarily recommend to a friend. As far as ratings go, 2.5 stars feels too low, but 3 feels too high. Still, I finished it and enjoyed large chunks of it...so I'll go with 3 stars.

Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Landmark for the opportunity to read and review this novel.
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Truly a book about the family you are born into vs the family you choose. Lex is not a very likeable character and her relationship with her Mother is hard to read, very dysfunctional and sad. Lex gets to know the reasons for the actions, attitudes of her Mother,  but honestly I just really didn't care. Not my kind of story.
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Thank you to Netgalley, the publisher and the author, for an ARC of this book, in exchange for an honest review.
The synopsis of this book sounded intriguing to me so I requested a copy to read.
Unfortunately, I have tried reading this book on 2 separate occasions and during this 2nd attempt, I have
decided to stop reading this book 
and state that this book just wasn't for me.
I wish the author, publisher and all those promoting the book much success and connections with the right readers.
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This book just wasn't my cup of tea. I was honestly excited to read a book about The South.  I just found the whole Lex/godmother thing rather cheesy for lack of a better word, and I was annoyed for some reason by it all. It was all just so jumbled up and it felt like I had to go back and reread things to try to figure out what was going on. Sad to say that this was a miss for me.
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What worked in Cook’s previous book, How To Bury Your Brother, doesn’t work quite as well in this one. Lex was a difficult character to like and the story never really took off for me. While a well written book, the final twist has been done before and it’s one I’m not overly fond of.
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Enjoyed the book and would give it 3.5 stars. It definitely wasn't what I was expecting. Lex and her family are dysfunctional with a capital D. Lex and her mother had a very love/hate relationship, although there might not have been any love. Margaret was extremely harsh to her daughter. I'm not sure how Lex survived the constant turmoil, she never knew when her mom was going to explode. Her dad never took her side and allowed Margaret to treat her horribly. Grant and Cami were the only characters that I actually liked. Cami and Grant would do anything for Lex. Both always manage to help Lex. Lex was lucky to have them in her life. Lex was so angry, which really wasn't a shock growing up with her mother. Margaret was also hard to like, even after reading her story through the letters. I felt bad for what she went through, but she dropped everything for a man she didn't know and treated her daughter awful. The ending was a twist I didn't see coming.

Definitely recommend the book. This is the first book I read by the author and look forward to reading more. I love the cover of the book.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from SOURCEBOOKS Landmark through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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“You can’t go home again,” wrote Thomas Wolfe famously. I pondered this axiom as I sat glued to the pages of LEARNING TO SPEAK SOUTHERN, a sprawling tale about Lex and her troubled return home to Memphis. 

Author Lindsey Rogers Cook is a storyteller par excellence, both here and in her work as Senior Editor, Digital Storytelling, NYT. She elegantly unfolds character and narrative as she gently reels you in, keeping you rapt. 

Lex fled Tennessee to escape painful memories of her mother’s untimely death. Years later, she’s yanked back after an urgent phone call from her godmother. 

I really related to Lex’s journey, which allowed her to better “get” her mother by reading her journals, and coming to a new sense of family, whether by blood or choice. And oh my, what an ending! 

5 of 5 Stars 
Pub Date 01 Jun 2021
#learningtospeaksouthern #NetGalley

Thanks to the author, NetGalley, and Sourcebooks Landmark for the review copy. Opinions are mine.
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Warning - this is not a light and fluffy book about living in the South! It is an interesting novel about a seriously dysfunctional family, living in Memphis, and a supportive family of choice.
As the book opens, Lex is 27, in Bali, broke, having given birth to a stillborn child and getting dumped by the baby daddy. She speaks multiple languages, and has spent the last 5 years traveling throughout the world to escape her life and family in Memphis.
Lex is also very angry and now that she’s back in Memphis, her focus is on how she can escape. Through a clever plot twist, she gradually learns more about her parents (and their history).
Learning to Speak Southern is a book about revisiting the past to try and understand your present, and the possibilities for your future. The first chapter was confusing to me and I didn’t think the linguistic elements that were periodically thrown in added much. But, Margaret’s story and the ending moved the book from 3-4 stars for me.
Thanks to Netgalley and Sourcebooks Landmark for the opportunity to read Learning to Speak Southern in exchange for an honest review.
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4.5 stars / This review will be posted at BookwormishMe.com today. 


After years of fleeing from place to place, Lex finds herself in a hospital in Bali without many choices. Her ex-boyfriend wants to reach out to someone for her, and Lex blurts out that he can reach out to her godmother. With no other choices, Lex is forced to accept her godmother’s help and that includes moving back to Memphis. 

Lex had never planned to go back to Memphis, but here she is, staying with the godmother she wished had been her real mother. Lex never understood her mother, or thought that her mother had really wanted her. Lex had always fled to her godmother, Cami’s, for sanctuary. Now that she’s back and her mother has passed, it’s time for Lex to find out the real story. Cami has a stack of letters from Lex’s late mother that she will give to Lex as she deems fitting. So through the old journals of her mother and Cami’s letters, Lex may finally find a way to understand her family and find her way home.

Loved every minute of this book. Lex’s story was so compelling. Traveling the world is something most people dream of. But Lex’s reasons for doing it are not the same as most. This story has a lot of tragic elements, people facing up to decisions they’ve made and facing some demons as well. It delves into emotions and how we justify our actions to ourselves. 

Lindsey Rogers Cook is a fabulous storyteller. She exceeded at weaving together all the pieces of this novel. The characters are multi-dimensional. I definitely want to read her previous novel now that I’ve had a taste of her writing.
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Sorry to say this one wasn’t for me.  Quite lost from the first pages on what exactly was happening and why.  I derived that a young lady had just lost a baby and was being sent back to America, but I felt just thrown into the story without an anchor.  DNF.
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Lex has spent the last years traveling the world, teaching English and learning new languages.  Things have just gone very badly for her- she not only had a still birth, the father of their baby deserted her- so she's come home to Memphis to regroup and deal as well with the death of her mother. She had a tortured relationship with Margaret and always ran to her godmother Cami for solace.  Now, Cami has promised to let her in on her mother's secrets and doles out one letter a day to Lex. No spoilers from me but know that Lex discovers there was much more to her mother, and her family, that she ever knew.  Some of this territory might feel familiar but there's a twist and Cook has a nice way of evoking a certain Southern lifestyle. Yes, Lex and her family are privileged in many ways but there's an emotional element that's important.  Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.  I was a fan of Cook's debut novel, which I think might have been stronger but this is also a very good read.
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A swing….and a miss. I was so excited and engaged at first, but around 20% it just lost me. The tension between the mother and daughter seemed choreographed, and the main character is unlikeable. The pacing starts out really well, and then slams on the brakes for no discernible reason. Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the ARC.
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I loved the clever title of this book and i love southern stories but this one got off to a bad start for me. It felt like things were happening and I didn’t understand what or why for several more pages, then there more questions than answers. The linguistic references were nice but unfortunately just added to my confusion. So, for me, it started to feel disjointed and hodgepodge and i just couldn’t finish after reading a quarter of the book. It wasn’t for me, for now, but maybe it will be your cup of tea. 

Thanks to NetGalley for allowing me to the chance to read.
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What worked in Cook’s previous book, How To Bury Your Brother, doesn’t work quite as well in this one.  Lex was a difficult character to like and the story never really took off for me.  While a well written book, the final twist has been done before and it’s one I’m not overly fond of.  A story of overcoming and family that leaves us with hope by the final pages.
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I so enjoyed this book! It drew me in and I was done! I loved the family drama side of it! Very interesting and intriguing. 
The characters felt real and I totally connected with them. 
The story I just absolutely loved and enjoyed diving deeper into Memphis and Lex's story! 
Thank You NetGalley Sourcebooks Landmark and author for this beautiful ebook copy!
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Learning to Speak Southern 
Lindsey Rogers Cook
June 1, 2021

Alexandra Henry was the only child of Margaret Henry and her father, Dennis.  Margaret was arrogant and nasty, always trying to make her plan one for Lex and Dennis to follow.  After college and her parents death, Lex traveled around the world to different locations teaching English to students.  She is a linguist. She knew many different languages, studied them.  Her past times were caught up in word and word meanings.  Her mother’s best friend through high school, Cami was a strong surrogate parent in her life.  When she and Margaret argued, Lex would run off to live with Cami.  Her father would come to settle things.  He would always maintain that her mother only wanted the best for her.  When Lex came home from her stint abroad, her plans were to move into Cami’s home and hunt for work in Memphis.  It wasn’t her favorite place.  The odd ways that people expressed their views annoyed her but she would need to work through it.  Cami welcomed her by bribing her with installments of her mother’s diaries.  
Cook’s literary journal gives us a long, complex view of the Henry family.  Her work is well written although intense and confusing when relating Lex’s struggle and Margaret’s hidden life.  
Learning to Speak Southern by Lindsey Rogers Cook will be published by Donald Maass Literary Agency of Sourcebooks Landmark on June 1, 2021.  Her latest book is a work of literary fiction.  I appreciate the publisher allowing me to read and review Learning to Speak Southern via NetGalley.  My review is my opinion and I encourage readers who enjoy works of women’s fiction to read this novel.
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It was very hard for me to get into this book. I found the characters hard to relate to, and the writing was very erratic and confusing. I’m sure others will love it, but it wasn’t a fit for me.
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