Title: Apron Strings
Author: Mary Morony
Genre: Literary Fiction
Number of Pages: 253
Publication Date: March 14, 2014
Summary: When a grown-up tells you not to worry, you had better start—first rule of thumb, Sallee Mackey, age seven. She is already more than a little bit wary of the adults in her Jim Crow era, Southern world with good reason. Sallee’s mother Ginny is flat out dangerous; her father Joe is on his way out the door; and Mr. Dabney the bigoted neighbor seems to be just a little too interested with the goings on at Sallee’s house—like he knows something no one else does. The only adult to be trusted is Ethel, the family maid, who has known Sallee’s mother since Ethel and Ginny were both girls.
That complicated relationship started the day Ethel spied Ginny kissing the black stable boy years ago. While Ginny has conveniently forgotten that she even knew Ethel back then, Sallee has not as she constantly lobs questions at Ethel about her mother’s girlhood.
From Sallee’s oft times humorous and always guileless vantage, grownups have a most mixed up view of the world. What does skin color have to do with learning? Closing schools rather than have black and white children in the same classroom, what’s the sense of that?
Ethel gives her very own biased account of her shared history with Ginny while Sallee hones her vigilance and stealth, skills she and her brother and two sisters have acquired in an attempt to understand the drama that swirls around them. Rocks are thrown through windows, a car filled with angry white men shout racial slurs at the children at play and a tragic poisoning threatens the entire family’s sense of security.
When Joe Mackey asks Ethel to testify on his behalf in a custody suit, her conflicted loyalties throw the entire family into even more turmoil.
Apron Strings is a fascinating novel that is centered around the complicated life of a southern family and their maid, whom they've all come to depend on.
Sallee Mackey is an inquisitive young girl that builds a special bond with her maid and caretaker, Ethel. Ethel spends time answering all of Sallee's questions, whereas her mother is often cold and hostile towards her. Of course, when Sallee can't get answers she takes to eavesdropping.
The Mackey family loves Ethel as though she is one of the family, but many people in their neighborhood, including their next door neighbor, only see the color of Ethel's skin and judge her harshly. The children don't understand why the color of skin makes any difference and often stand up to others to defend Ethel.
Ginny Mackey is very self absorbed and her children fear her. Inevitable her marriage falls apart and she seeks custody if only to hurt their father. Sallee and her siblings are torn. They want to escape their unstable mother, but are afraid to be without Ethel. What is to become of the children and Ethel?
Apron Strings is a well thought out and effectively organized story. I was immediately drawn in and felt the same bond with Ethel as the children did. Through dialogue and setting, Mary Morony creates a beautiful and compelling story that captures your attention from beginning to end.
I highly recommend picking up a copy of Apron Strings. Available on Amazon.