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

    Oct 17, 2023, 304 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Tina Choi
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Ransom Musgrove has been summoned to the house of his youth, the Romanesque revival mansion from the 1880s that everyone calls the "Old Fort"—on account of the parapet and the grand turret and the gargoyles and all the ivied brickwork. As he comes up the walk he gets flashes from his boyhood. Under that pecan, first kiss with Debbie Gannon. Under the crepe myrtle, third base with Lu Ann Farris. Up in the brown turkey fig tree, wasn't there some death match with his big brother, David? He has a vague memory of David taunting him, of getting so mad he went for David's throat and forgot to hold on to the limb. He doesn't recall what happened next.

Then at the front steps he has one more memory.

Thirteen years old. Standing out here awaiting the carpool to school and daydreaming, when his mother appeared on the balcony. Although it was a bright, sunny morning, she was drunk. Clearly she'd been out partying the night before and hadn't been to bed yet. She began to disparage him in the third person, one of her favorite pastimes. She said, "While the kid dawdles there like an idiot, gathering wool, concocting his little fantasies about how the world should be, the real world keeps marching on, doesn't it? Clomp clomp clomp, crushing his little dreams. Does he even notice? No, he's too stupid. Is he going to be a hobo? Well yes, that's certain, unless he gets some ambition and starts kiting checks. Ha ha ha."

He hoped that the arrival of the carpool would shut her up. And it did, for a moment. Mrs. Tarkanian's big Suburban pulled up, and he squeezed into the second row with two other kids while Mother, up on that balcony, produced a silk handkerchief and waved it. Mrs. Tarkanian waved back. "Hey, Morgana." His mother said, in a loud tragic voice, "Hey, Laurel. Goodbye, Laurel. Goodbye, my son who is destined to be a vagabond." Her position when drunk was always: I'll speak the truth and the public be damned. As the carpool pulled away he felt his mortification in his jawbone and his spine, and silently begged for death. However, the other kids made no comment. Maybe they'd thought she was joking? Or they hadn't understood the word? However, years later a girl who'd been in that car told him she'd thought it was "romantic, scary but kind of romantic the way your mom stood up on that balcony that day telling the whole neighborhood how you were destined to be a vagabond."

It's not lost on him that Morgana's prophecy has come true.

Up four steps to the porch, to the front door with the spiderweb fanlight and sidelight, and he hasn't even seen her yet but already he feels the bad juice in his veins, and has to remind himself that she summoned him (sending her accountant to find his tent under the Harry S Truman exit ramp), that he's still a free man, he's thirty-three years old and should she try to start anything, to flip any of his switches, he can just turn and walk away. Anytime he's so inclined. So he tells himself.

He turns the door crank. Here comes Betty the maid.


Betty's a white woman in her late thirties. She grew up on a farm in Odom, Georgia, and wears a perpetually awestruck look, and dresses in baggy browns and grays, and always has a slow and languorous drawl even on the rare occasions when she isn't riding her magic carpet of downers. When she says, "Oh, your mama will be so glad!" the last words seem to roll on forever: sooo glayyyy-uddd.

She hugs his neck and then holds the door open for him.

He steps inside.

His eyes have to adjust. The foyer is always kept in the gloaming, with only a thin light slanting down from the oriel window. There's the pomp of the staircase, and the bronze sconces and the walnut secretary desk, and the still lifes and fantastical landscapes that Morgana loves. His forebears scowl down from their frames. He appreciates that none of them pretend to be happy.

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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