Show Me A Kindness

Written by Nancy Brandon
Review by Arleigh Johnson

In South Georgia during the Great Depression, a young woman with a troubled life steps off the train in Vidalia. Making a new life for herself, Oma finds a job where she excels at making pies that have customers flocking to the local café. Yet something isn’t quite right. She’s losing days of her memory and many times awakening to some disaster or other. With the help of Comfort, a local day-maid attached to her boardinghouse, she soon discovers the reality of the situation: she’s suffering from multiple personality disorder, and her other self, named Marthanne, has a completely different personality. As Oma desperately wants to work and save money for her own pie-making business, Marthanne turns to a widower who has been paying her attentions. They fight each other over important decisions, all the while struggling to keep the true nature of their condition under wraps. In a time when a mental health concern meant harsh treatments at an asylum—Milledgeville in this case—it is no wonder that Oma/Marthanne is determined to hide her predicament.

The story handles Oma and Marthanne as separate characters, which works well in making her condition relatable to readers. As they communicate through a notebook—when one is “awake,” the other is “asleep”—their past is slowly revealed, bringing the tale to a heartrending climax and unexpected ending. Historically, the author pads her story with details of Prohibition, farming (specifically the famous Vidalia sweet onions), and Jim Crow laws. All of the characters, especially the sardonic Comfort, are well-fleshed and interesting. Handling a delicate subject empathetically, the quirky narration beautifully encompasses a range of emotions that will enthrall readers through the final page.