“I am not, nor will I ever be, the kind of woman who wears pearls with her apron while cooking meatloaf for her husband. But when I was a kid, my mother, Babs, prepared me to be the next June Cleaver—teaching me lessons that belonged to another era. Another world, practically. My mother’s world. I couldn’t wait to leave home and get away from her. But now, well . . . let’s just say life hasn’t turned out quite as I’d planned. And heaven help me, I’m going home.”
I love books that revolve around families, family sagas, or are true character studies of people. While Pamela Morsi is a romance author, I would not consider The Cotton Queen a romance novel. I first read it back in 2006 or 2007 and immediately fell in love with the main characters, a mother and daughter from two different eras who are trying to make their ways in the world in very different (although maybe not so different) ways. The Cotton Queen, at its heart, is about what it means to love someone and how strong a family can really be.
Laney Hoffman, the Cotton Queen of McKinney, Texas, 1975, thinks of herself as an independent, strong woman who is nothing like her mother. Babs Hoffman, the Cotton Queen first runner-up of 1956, doesn’t understand why her daughter won’t just listen to her. From Laney’s perspective, it seems as though her mom had an obsession with presenting a perfect façade–perfect home, perfect child, perfect life. What Laney doesn’t know is what Babs went through (she is a WWII widow and a rape survivor), and that her tendency towards beauty and perfection is her way of protecting her daughter. The story is told in alternating chapters between Babs and Laney, and we get to see their stories unfold from each perspective, from the day Laney was born up to present day (2004) with Laney’s 17-year-old daughter.
The Cotton Queen is a heartwarming, and at times heartbreaking, story about family and how far a mom is willing to go to provide a good life for her daughter. It is about mothers and daughters and how no matter how hard we may try to not be like our moms, a lot of the time we are exactly like them anyway, for better or worse. Laney deliberately makes choices that she thinks are the exact opposite of what Babs would do, not knowing how strong Babs really is. What happens when we discover that our inner strength may not actually come from ourselves, but from our mother?
This isn’t a tough read, but I wouldn’t call it fluffy either. It’s a solid story about mothers and daughters, love, and survival. Let me know what you think if you read it!