Temple Secrets. Susan Gabriel. Wild Lily Arts. February 2015. 368 pp. ISBN#: 9780983588276.
Iris Temple is the Grand Dame of Savannah, Georgia and treats everyone accordingly. Her power lies in family secrets, her own as well as those of her son Edward, her daughter Rose, her half-sister Queenie, her maid Violet and the local butcher Spud. Readers get to know her through the narration of Queenie, including Iris’s eccentric gastronomical preferences for exotic meats like rattlesnake sauteed in garlic and onions. Queenie describes her “secret” food preference of Kentucky Fried Chicken with belly-laughing commentary. Anyone who manages to offend Iris usually suffers negative results as Iris writes superiors no matter how high up they are from the local editor of the newspaper all the way to the President and the Pope. Queenie manages to laugh at it all.
For Queenie, her mother Sally and Violet all practice the voodoo art of Gullah, creating mostly protective spells for those they love, although some suspect an occasional curse has also been set elsewhere. They are African-Americans who know how to love and enjoy life, sharing humor, laughter, and son in the middle of the direst times. Now we come to the initial moment of great conflict, the dying process of Iris who has a stroke after the first “secret” from the Book of Secrets is revealed in the local newspaper. As these are supposed to be locked up in a bank vault, everyone who knew Iris Temple is petrified about whether his or her secret will next be revealed. Soon protesters are leaving obnoxious posters and other items outside the Temple residence, a useless gesture as the daily shocking announcements continue.
Iris is dying and the ghosts of the house are busy, busy, busy! Ivy will not go easy and the scene describing her eventual passing is absolutely amazing! So too is the reading of the will and the choices of the beneficiaries are wild, to say the least!
Sally and Queenie save these characters from becoming scarred, bitter people. The scenes of their conversations and the ensuing healing are so real and heart-warming, never to be forgotten by any and all readers. Descriptions of luscious Southern meals are scattered throughout the novel as well!
There is so much more within these pages that this reader didn’t want the novel to end but to continue forever. Temple Secrets has been compared to other popular novels, but this particular novel is so uniquely wonderful and is highly recommended! Magnificent novel!