Excerpt from The Kingdoms of Savannah by George Dawes Green, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Kingdoms of Savannah

A Novel

by George Dawes Green

The Kingdoms of Savannah by George Dawes Green X
The Kingdoms of Savannah by George Dawes Green
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  • First Published:
    Jul 2022, 304 pages

    Paperback:
    Oct 17, 2023, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Tina Choi
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However, Betty does pretend. When he asks how she's doing, she smiles and says, "So well, Ransom." Raaan-sum. He knows this to be false. A few weeks ago she went to the home of her ex-boyfriend's new flame and borrowed a cup of sugar from her. Then found her ex's Durango on the street, and emptied the sugar into the tank. Not coy about it. Bystanders took out their phones and recorded her. She posed with that cup the way Annie Oakley would pose with her pistol. Then she returned the cup to the new girlfriend and thanked her. The videos became popular of course. Now she's in a great deal of trouble but keeps a brave face and says to Ransom, "It's such a lovely dayyyy, isn't it?" and leads him straight to his mother.

Morgana stands at the dining room table. She's plumping up an immense arrangement of flowers. "My beloved," she coos, raising her cheek for the requisite buss. "You look terribly thin. Are you eating dandelions and wild asparagus?"

"I'm eating fine, Mother."

And somewhat to his surprise, she drops it. Doesn't needle him at all. Doesn't accuse him of "assuming some pose of dereliction to which you are frankly unentitled," or charge him with "plunging a dagger into the heart of your family." She simply gestures for him to take a seat. With a quick smile, as she resumes her arranging.

She must truly need something.

She is wearing a mauve silk shirt and her honeycomb brooch, and looks quite formal. Not "imperial": her enemies call her that, but really she's too small and birdlike to fit that description—and, just now, too busy. She's laying in a base for her spray. Building a pedestal of ruscus and aspidistra and stock and freesia (Ransom grew up amid her flowers and knows them all). She asks, "Would you care for iced tea?"

"Thanks, yes."

She nods; Betty goes off.

He watches his mother work. The snip-snip of the shears. After a moment though, she frowns and says, "Oh it's impossible."

"What is?"

"It's for my event tonight, the Spring Soiree for the Disabled. Every year the big spray is all anyone talks about, and every year it gets harder to assemble. Would you just look at these?" Holding up a few stems loaded with garish blooms. "They're called Papaya Popsicles. They're ludicrous yet must be given prominence, because they were grown by Rebecca Cressling, who donated sixty thousand dollars last year. What do you think?"

"Sort of blaring."

"Yet it gets worse."

She shows him a clutch of black blossoms with long white whiskers. "We must also give pride of place to these. Bat flowers. Have you ever seen the like? Grown by Jane Rundle with great care in her greenhouse. And why did she do this? No one can say. But she has bequeathed us one point five million dollars in her will, so we must not dishonor her little nightmares. I thought of cutting the stems long, that they might loom over the whole show like so many Grim Reapers—a metaphor for how Jane's death looms over us. Looms yet never quite happens, does it? But that would demote the Popsicles. You see my dilemma? I have to feature both Popsicles and bat flowers. I must create some hideous compromise."

"Mother?"

"Yes, dear."

"You asked to see me."

She turns to give him a full look.

"Right. Well. Yesterday Johnny Cooper came by."

Johnny Cooper manages Musgrove Investigations—one of the many little sidelines created by Ransom's father and still in Morgana's possession.

He says, "You still haven't sold that?"

"No, but I've rather neglected it. Of course, it's never brought me a dime in profit. But then it didn't for your father either. Frankly I believe profit wasn't the point for him. I believe he used it in his business dealings. To keep track of his rivals."

Ransom's gaze flicks away from her: he turns to the portraits, his scowling forebears. She catches the shift.

Excerpted from The Kingdoms of Savannah by George Dawes Green. Copyright © 2022 by George Dawes Green. Excerpted by permission of Celadon. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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