My Summer of Southern Discomfort
By Leigh
Jul 1, 2007 - 11:56:16 AM

Natalie Goldberg always aimed to follow the path of her father, a famous civil rights lawyer.   But her legal career suffers a big hit when a partner at her NYC law firm – a man she’s having an affair with – lets Natalie take the blame for a costly mistake he made.   Unwilling to be demoted, Nat takes the first job available:   a position in the DA’s office in Macon, GA.

A Northerner, an outsider, a woman and Jewish – to say that Natalie doesn’t exactly fit in is an understatement.   The locals can’t fathom Nat’s fastidious organization and big city habits and Natalie, in her self-imposed exile, does little to encourage them to try.   Though she tells her parents and best friend over and over that this was a wise move for her - inside she wonders if that is true.


Two events become a turning point for Natalie.   The first is a plea from a colleague, Carl, to help convince his sister to leave her abusive husband.   The second is being assigned as co-counsel to the infuriating Ben Maddox, who is prosecuting a double homicide.   Natalie feels obligated to help in both areas, the first because it’s the right thing to do and the second because it’s her job.   The only problem with number two is that in Georgia this is a death penalty case – and Natalie is vehemently opposed to capital punishment.


Slowly but surely the people of Macon begin to grow on Natalie and she finds friends in unexpected places; her garden-whiz neighbor, the former beauty queen-cum-defense attorney, and Carl.   Strangely enough, she even finds an excellent mentor in Ben.   While the two don’t often see eye-to-eye, she grows to admire his legal skill and looks forward to their verbal sparring.   As their case heats up, Natalie is forced to put her personal beliefs aside in favor of justice; and she begins to wonder whether her land of exile could ever be called home.


Just in time for summer reading, MY SUMMER OF SOUTHERN DISCOMFORT is a fun read about a woman who finds her place and her home.   Although the book centers on some weighty issues, the author keeps her story light and touched with humor alleviating much of the angst.   It was fun watching Natalie adapt and discover all the things she loved about living in the south and her new career.   This is a fantastic debut novel for Stephanie Gayle and a treat for those who enjoy women’s fiction.


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