Review: The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove by Susan Gregg Gilmore

August 26, 2010 General Fiction, Review 10

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (August 17, 2010)
  • ISBN-10: 0307395030
  • Source: Publisher


In 1960’s Nashville, Bezellia Grove is the oldest daughter in a prominent family.  Her father is a doctor who would rather spend time with his patients than his own family, and her mother is a closet alcoholic. Bezellia and her sister are raised by their nanny, Maizelle, and the handyman, Nathanial. Bezellia treats them as members of her family while her mother treats them as pieces of property.

As a member of a prominent family, Bezellia is expected to accept her role by taking French lessons and attending cotillions.  Bezellia wants more out of life than that. 

 Bezellia’s name has been passed down from generation to generation. Her namesake was known for her courage and passion, and Bezellia vows to live up to that name. While others in the family line shortened the name, Bezellia totes it proudly.

When she meets Nathanial’s son, Samuel, she is instantly enamored. In a world where the color lines can’t be breached, this relationship is damned from the beginning.  Bezellia is forced to decide which name she will be known for; her first name or her last.

Gilmore is not afraid to touch on some pretty sensitive issues, including racism, alcoholism & insanity.  She doesn’t sugar coat it at all, despite how difficult it may to accept.  I fell in love with her characters, with Bezellia and her relationship with Samuel.  I had a special bond with these two characters in specific, largely due to the fact that my husband and I make up an interracial couple.  While the pain they went through is much larger than what my husband & I deal with on a regular basis, I could definitely sympathize with their struggle. 

THE IMPROPER LIFE OF BEZELLIA GROVE  is much more than “just” a novel about racism in the South.  It’s a tale of one young woman’s struggle to come to terms with who she is.  Does she live up to the expectations placed on her because of her family’s position in society, or does she live up to her own goals and aspirations. 

I can’t recommend this book enough to you. If there is one book you  must buy this summer, this should be it. I will forever cherish the gift Gilmore has given to me, through the characters in this book and her overwhelmingly powerful prose.

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10 Responses to “Review: The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove by Susan Gregg Gilmore”

  1. Ryan

    “If there is one book you must buy . . .” okay, I’m convinced. I think I’ll check this one out.

  2. Kay

    OK, you’ve convinced me to seek it out. For some reason, I had the idea that this book was about Hawaii. LOL I guess it was flower headband on the cover girl. I feel silly. 🙂

  3. bermudaonion (Kathy)

    Wow, this book sounds amazing! I’ve got to wait to read it though because I’ve put together an impromptu book club to read it in October and I’ll need it to be fresh in my mind.