Heartbreak Hotel

Siddons, Anne Rivers. Heartbreak Hotel. New York: Pocket Star Books, 2004.

Margaret Deloach (Maggie to her friends) is a good girl, a good, smart Southern girl who has everything going for her. She is popular and beautiful, a sister in the Kappa sorority and pinned to the ever handsome Boots Claiborne. Much is made of Maggie’s looks, her clothing, her sense of style. It isn’t until Maggie meets Hoyt Cunningham, a childhood friend of Boot’s, that Maggie’s moral compass and intelligence is exposed and challenged. Everything comes to a head when Maggie witnesses the brutal recapture of a black inmate from the county jail in Boot’s hometown. What makes this story so interesting is Heartbreak Hotel is a coming of age story set in the Civil Rights era South. It is lush with description, brimming with trouble. It is easy to see why it was a New York Times best seller.

While Maggie is admirable throughout the entire saga of Heartbreak Hotel I did have one small question. *Spoiler Alert* Maggie writes an opinion piece about segregation in Alabama. It coincides with the entrance of the state university’s first black student so racist tensions are already running high. Maggie’s piece strikes out at her finance’s family and the only way of life they had ever known for generations and generations. My question is this, how in the world did Maggie think she could write a front page article criticizing Boots and still have him as her husband? There is one scene that I find Maggie’s character to be completely unbelievable. Maggie’s column has made the front page only Boots hasn’t seen it yet. He has been away for a family funeral. When he returns they go to his fraternity for a party where Maggie is hopeful no one will mention the article to him. She even thinks she has a chance to tell him about it and “have a laugh over it.” I don’t know what she was thinking when everything up to that point indicates he will have a royal, violent meltdown.

Favorite lines: “And so reading remained one of Maggie’s small and constant rebellions” (p 11). I loved this line when I first read it and didn’t realize how much of a premonition it was to the tail end of the story. Another favorite line, “She passed a day in fitful, drugged sleep, in which deep snoring alternated with wild incoherent sobbings about guilt and blood and chewing gum and blonde whores and God” (138). That, my friends, is the epitome of a breakdown. Brilliant.

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called, “Southern-Fried Fiction: Alabama” (p 206). Alabama became a state in the month of December but I chose to read Heartbreak Hotel in September as another Back to School honor book. I had a few days left in the month and this book was lying around the house so I read it.

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