Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind (Miss Julia Series #1)

Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind (Miss Julia Series #1)

by Ann B. Ross


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Miss Julia, a recently bereaved and newly wealthy widow, is only slightly bemused when one Hazel Marie Puckett appears at her door with a youngster in tow and unceremoniously announces that the child is the bastard son of Miss Julia's late husband. Suddenly, this longtime church member and pillar of her small Southern community finds herself in the center of an unseemly scandal-and the guardian of a wan nine-year-old whose mere presence turns her life upside down.

With razor-sharp wit and perfect "Steel Magnolia" poise, Miss Julia speaks her mind indeed-about a robbery, a kidnapping, and the other disgraceful events precipitated by her husband's death. Fast-paced and charming, with a sure sense of comic drama, a cast of crazy characters, and a strong Southern cadence, Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind will delight readers from first page to last.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780688177751
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 08/22/2000
Series: Miss Julia Series , #1
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 83,659
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Ann B. Ross, who taught literature at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, is the author of Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind, one of the most popular Southern debut novels in years, Miss Julia Takes Over, Miss Julia Throws a Wedding, and Miss Julia Hits the Road. She lives in Hendersonville, North Carolina.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

I'd just caught my breath after the shock of my husband's sudden passing when his last legacy showed up on my front porch. We'd buried Wesley Lloyd Springer some few months before that hot, still morning in August, and I hoped I was through signing forms and meeting with lawyers and shuffling through various and sundry legal papers. I declare, this business of dying has more legal aspects to it than you would think. The deceased never knows what you have to go through to get his affairs in order, and Wesley Lloyd's were in as much order as they could get. I thought.

Lord, it was hot that morning, and I recalled again how Wesley Lloyd had always put his foot down about air-conditioning the house, even when the Conovers had theirs done. Central air, too. Wesley Lloyd said it was a waste of money and, besides, fresh air was good for us. He felt that way only at home, though, because his office at the bank was kept cool enough for the threepiece suits he wore day in and day out. But I don't believe in speaking ill of the dead, even when it's the truth.

So I was sitting in my living room trying to get my mind off the heat by looking through a stack of mail-order catalogs. Making a list of the items I intended to call in for and having a good time doing it, since Binkie Enloe'd said I needed to spend some, money. Sam Murdoch had agreed, and he ought've known since he was the executor of the will that had put me in my present more-than-comfortable position. Lord, there was more money than I ever knew Wesley Lloyd had, and it all belonged to me, his grieving widow. But a proud widow, too, and justly so, because I'd made such a fine andfortunate choice of husbands.

But I tell you, I thought I'd never get over the shock of finding Wesley Lloyd dead as a doornail, slumped over the steering wheel of his new Buick Park Avenue. Steel gray with plush upholstery, parked right out there in the driveway.

But I did, laying him to rest in a properly ordered Presbyterian ceremony as he would've expected. Then I had to suffer another shock when I found out how well-off Wesley Lloyd had been. Why, besides the bank his daddy'd left him, he owned half the county, seemed like, plus stocks and bonds and tax-deferred annuities, all of it making more and more money every day of the week. When the extent of his estate was laid out for me, all I could think of was how he used to hand me a housekeeping allowance every Friday, saying, "Make it last, Julia. Money doesn't grow on trees, you know." And all the time he was cultivating a whole grove! Well, a lot of good it did him, because I ended up with every penny.

Now, after forty-four years in blissful ignorance of Wesley Lloyd's activities, financial and otherwise, I had settled down to enjoy the benefits of widowhood and a full checkbook, both of which I was mastering with hardly any problems to speak of.

I looked out the window as a few cars passed by on Polk Street, headed down to Main. I declare, everybody and his brother seemed to have a telephone glued to his ear, though this town's not big enough to need BellSouth whenever you drive to the grocery store. Across the street the parking lot spread from Polk to the back of the First Presbyterian Church of Abbotsville, my church and the one Wesley Lloyd and his father, before him, had supported with their presence, tithes, offerings, and over-and-above donations. Advice, too, which was always taken but not always appreciated. Heat waves shimmered up from the asphalt lot as I took note of whose cars were parked over there. It was my custom to keep up with what went on around me and, since Mondays were Pastor Ledbetter's days off, I couldn't be blamed for wondering why he was meeting with several men on the session at the church. But far be it from me to be nosy.

I could hear Lillian humming along with the radio above the occasional clatter of pans out in the kitchen as she prepared my lunch. That was another thing that was different, now that Wesley Lloyd wouldn't be home for meals anymore. He'd liked a quiet house, meals served on time, and everything done right on schedule. I had already begun to enjoy a little freedom from that schedule, telling Lillian that we'd eat whenever either of us got hungry or she got the urge to put something on the table.

I licked a finger and turned a page in the Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog, wondering what Sam and Binkie would say if I ordered a few trinkets from it. I declare, some of the offerings were for people with more money than sense, a condition that didn't apply to me, I'm happy to say. I expect, though, that any number of people would've said it did if they'd known the full extent of Wesley Lloyd's prudence and foresight.

However. His prudence and foresight hadn't taken heart attacks into account. I knew as sure as I was sitting there he never intended to leave me in charge of everything he owned. I knew it as soon as Pastor Ledbetter came sidling up to me not two days after laying Wesley Lloyd to rest, telling me he knew I'd want to 'honor Mr. Springer's last wishes even if they'd never gotten written down. That was the first I'd heard that Wesley Lloyd had planned to make the First Presbyterian Church. . .

Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind. Copyright © by Ann Ross. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Table of Contents

Reading Group Guide

Plot Summary

After the unexpected death of her husband of 44 years, Julia Springer is more than just a grieving widow, she's a rich one. She's also a woman on the verge of finding herself. Freed at last from her husband's sheltering, often suffocating gaze, Miss Julia realizes that she must learn to manage her money, to run her own household, and to carry on the substantial reputation that her husband built in their small Southern town. It's a tall order, and one she's excited to take on. But just when she thinks she's got her new life under control, an unexpected visitor arrives with news that would send anyone, let alone a proper Southern lady, into a tailspin. How Julia copes with the news of her husband's secret life, and learns to rebuild her own, is the subject of this charming, often zany and always riveting novel.

In Julia Springer, Ann B. Ross has created a unique and utterly compelling character who forces us to rethink our concept of how a respectable, well-to-do woman should behave. On the outside, Julia is a formidable presence, proud of her position in the town, and unquestioning of the choices she has made. But news of her husband's infidelity shakes the very foundation on which she has built her life. Miss Julia is forced to reconsider not only the man her husband was, but what kind of marriage she had. And, as the people in the town learn of Julia's plight, their treatment of her becomes a lesson of a different kind-about the value of honesty over lies, and about the importance of being true to oneself, even in the face of judgmental neighbors.

Ann B. Ross overturns many prejudices in this wonderfully vivid portrait of Southern life,including those involving class, race, and religion. But her most important triumph lies in the surprising transformation of a sheltered white woman who learns to stand on her own two feet; to value money wisely spent and generously given; to make friends with all kinds of people; and ultimately to trust her own good instincts and speak her mind whenever she sees fit.

Questions for Discussion
  • Miss Julia remarks to Deputy Bates, "Don't you know it's always the wife's fault if a man strays? . . . There's always something the wife's doing, or not doing, that pushes a man over the brink. That's just the way it is." Do you think she believes this, or is she merely commenting on a societal prejudice? Either way, do you think Miss Julia is accurately predicting what the town will think of her husband's infidelity?

  • How well does Miss Julia know herself? Is she a reliable narrator? How does the author use point of view and tone to develop Julia's character?

  • What does Julia learn about her late husband as a result of his death? Why do you think her revelations about his personality have come so late in their relationship? What kind of person did Julia think she was married to? To what extent was Julia's ignorance about Lloyd's negative traits willful ignorance, and to what extent was she misled by him?

  • Ann B. Ross's portrait of Miss Julia's church and its leadership is far from flattering, yet religion plays a big part in Julia's life. Discuss Pastor Ledbetter's actions. Is there any difference between his deceptions and those of Brother Vern? What is Miss Julia looking for in religion that neither of these men can provide?

  • Why do you think Julia is so easily taken in by Dr. Fowler? Why is he so willing to believe that there is something psychologically depraved about her?

  • Julia goes from being terribly concerned about what the townspeople will think of her connection to Little Lloyd to taking a very defiant stance about the choices she has made. What is she risking by refusing to give in to the town's prejudice? What is she gaining?

  • How does Julia's relationship with Little Lloyd change over the course of the novel? What signs are we given of Julia's affection for the boy?

  • How do you think you would react in Miss Julia's situation? Would you take in Little Lloyd? Would you befriend Hazel Marie?

  • Why do you think Miss Julia develops such strong friendships with Lillian and Hazel Marie? What do these very different women have in common, and what does their affection for each other reveal about each of them?

  • What has Julia learned about life and love by the end of the novel? How have the obstacles she's overcome made her stronger and wiser?

  • Do you think Ross's portrait of a small Southern town is accurate? What aspects of Abbottsville and its denizens ring true to you? How does she use satire and slapstick to illustrate Abbottsville's more ridiculous qualities? How would Miss Julia's story have been different (if at all) had it taken place in your own community?
    Reading Group Guides come in packs of 20 and are available free of charge from your local bookstore, or by calling 1-800-242-7737.
    Reading Group Guide ISBN: 0-06-095887-1

  • Customer Reviews

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    Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind (Miss Julia Series #1) 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 119 reviews.
    ashoubre More than 1 year ago
    This book is the first book in the AWESOME Miss Julia Series. It is a series everyone can enjoy. As the "prim and proper" Miss Julia and Lillian get themselves into trouble time after time, I find myself literally laughing out loud; while people around me look at me funny because I am laughing out loud. Ann B. Rice really makes you smile and warms your heart with these delightful characters. While waiting for the next book to come out, I tend to miss the characters as the long months pass without them, as I'm sure you will too. So, if your are thinking of picking up this book, don't wait any longer. You won't be disappointed!
    Lit-teacher More than 1 year ago
    I bought this book on the spur of the moment, and I'm glad I did. Miss Julia is a hoot! She says things that I would love to say. Ann B. Ross has a writing style that is quick and witty. We learn about the characters through the eyes of Miss Julia. Miss Julia faces life's challenges head on with no excuses and few regrets. Surrounded by people who love and care about her, she manages to meet each challenge with her sense of humor-and opinions-intact.
    Gazmoolie More than 1 year ago
    The entire Miss Julia series, including this book, is a delight. Although somewhat conservative and old-fashioned in nature, it is just the sort of book that makes you feel comfortable and at-home with the characters. As a matter of fact, you probably "know" some of these characters in your own life experiences. I know I do and have. Especially encouraging is how Ann B. Ross defines the title character. It is refreshing, indeed, to see an "older" female lead as anything but a helpless and "done-with-life" individual. All characters are brought to life in a realistic fashion and you feel they are friends, or not. Perhaps the books are not for everyone and not especially deep in subject matter, but they are, somewhat, a flight from the world of today and that is enough for me, at this particular time. Ann B. Ross and her Miss Julia characters and series have been an enjoyment from the first to the lastest installment. Looking forward to the next.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Miss Julia is so funny at times, so real at times and can get herself in the most unusual situations! Love it.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    There have not been very many books that make me laugh out loud, but I roared with this one! (I recomnend not reading it during church services.) Oh, Miss Julia, you are a hoot! You act so proper and prim, but girlfriend, you are a firecracker!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    The Miss Julia series is one I could read over and over again. The tale is of an older woman's resolve to not let any circumstance get her down, no matter how embarrassing or distressing. I love her spunk and how she says things. Lots of fun.
    MontanaBookChick More than 1 year ago
    The first book in the Miss Julia series stole my heart. Ann Ross has created a world peopled with lively, off- beat characters and situations that kept me turning pages. This book made me laugh and moved me to tears on a few occasions. Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind puts a twist on the traditional coming-of-age novels with this feisty southern lady. Great summer read!
    CLR_MN More than 1 year ago
    While I enjoyed this book - I don't know that I enjoyed it enough to spend $12 a book for each book in the series. Wonder if others feel that way too?
    sharper7653 More than 1 year ago
    If you need a nice fund book, this series hits the spot. Start with Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind, the first book in the series where you meet all the players in Miss Julia's life.
    bookmark12pa More than 1 year ago
    A funny and exhilarating read.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Miss Julia is always keeping me in stiches. Never can wait to read next installment.
    barbara puckett More than 1 year ago
    So glad i read this. It made me laugh times and kept me interedted. What a great read.
    artdivavt More than 1 year ago
    This is the first book in the series and I cannot wait to get the next one. You wanted to know what happened next, and I did not want to put it down
    Casidk More than 1 year ago
    I enjoyed the older main character. I wouldn't call her a Mrs. Polifax but the age is about the same. I look forward to reading more about this character's adventures.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    This book was hard to put down once I started reading it. Ms. Julia had me 'cracking up' as I read each chapter. I look forward to reading the next book in the series. Many thanks to my friend Julie for sharing this book with me!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Very easy read. I like the way she develops the characters and she’s got a great sense of humor to her writing. There were several times I laughed out loud while reading this book. If you’re looking for an easy read and a way to escape the real world for awhile, you will enjoy this one!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Very delightful cozy mystery. It kept me in suspense until close to the end. Easy reading and a nice short story. I’m looking forward to reading other books in the series.
    lycomayflower on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Can't say that I enjoyed this overly much. Miss Julia herself was a somewhat amusing and endearing character and narrator, and a few of the other characters had potential (never realized); however this book is otherwise populated with downright wretched human beings who were so unsubtly conniving and evil-minded that I had a hard time believing they could exist and an even harder time believing that Miss Julia (sheltered as her life has been) could not see through them immediately. Perhaps this is meant to be exaggeration for the sake of humor? If so, it missed the mark with me.
    NewsieQ on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Funny and sad and a wonderful read!
    abitbookish on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    I actually read exerpts from this to my husband they were so funny. I laughed out loud several times.
    ctait17 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Very fun study of older woman and her ideas changing because of circumstances, very enjoyable
    kymmayfield on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Well it started off really slow, I didnt know what to think about it lol. But i would have to say a 4 out of a 5 all in all. It picked up pace continually and got to be a book i couldnt put down. I will definatley be looking for the next in the series.
    running501 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    A light, yet somewhat frustrating read, as Miss Julia is a hold over from women of another time. I can't imagine a modern woman being taken advantage of the way Miss Julia is - but this helps the otherwise predictable plot.
    tututhefirst on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Miss Julia is actually Mrs. Wesley Lloyd Springer, recently widowed, filthy rich, and with the subtle encouragement of her family friend and lawyer Sam Murdoch, and faithful family retainer Lillian, she is gradually emerging from the shell of fragile Southern womanhood in which she was dominated by her husband during their 44 years of marriage, and beginning to think for herself. In this delightful kick-off to the series, she is confronted by her husband's heretofore unknown infidelity in the person of Wesley Lloyd Springer II (called "Junior" by his less than socially acceptable mother) at the same time she is obliged to fend off a greedy, grasping, duplicitous pastor who wants to have her declared incompetent so he can become her "guardian" and manage her money (and who really wants to put up a new building for the church).There is a cast of not quite stereotypical southern crazies and a plot that moves right along. I was pleased to see how it all began and will definitely continue reading several more of the series whenever I want a "southern veranda" iced tea break. These are not scholarly tomes, but there is enough good writing to make them an entertaining read and leave you feeling that you haven't wasted your time.