Meaty Okra is a tender coming of age story that takes place in small town Georgia in the 1970's. The narrator, Mallory Leak, is a seven-year-old with clever observations on the humor and pain of the raging grown-ups all around her. Her vivacious and mercurial mother, Nita Ann, endures a volatile, abusive relationship with Mallory's father, Earl, a hard-drinking man, who would rather buy booze and bird dogs than feed his family.
Mallory very bravely opens the door to the chaotic household where she grew up with a mentally ill mother who consistently makes poor life choices and drags her children with her. Still, Mallory is proud of how her mother takes a courageous stand againist racism, even when she has everything to lose in their small Southern town.
Considered stupid or eccentric, or both, Mallory finds solace in reading novels, giving her a brief refuge from her toxic home life. She falls in love with the stories and becomes the characters as a means of escape.
The constant ridicule by her classmates becomes unbearable until her seventh grade English teacher tells her that those who lead a life of abuse have a choice to make, either to love or to hate. Mallory is finally able to choose to accept herself and maybe even have the inner belief that she is special and will rise up. The love of self, as is the case for most long suffering people, comes much later, after living life a little. And that is the sequel.
The observationally humorous and poignant prose of Meaty Okra takes the reader through a gamut of emotions. You'll laugh, you'll cry, and everything in between.