Mississippi Writers and Musicians
MISSISSIPPI WRITERS: Beverly Lowry


Beverly Lowry Lowry, 2004. Photo by Nancy Jacobs1938

Major Works

Novels

  • Breaking Gentle (1988)
  • Come Back, Lolly Ray (1977)
  • Daddy's Girl (1981)
  • Emma Blue (1978)
  • The Perfect Sonya (1987)
  • The Track of Real Desires: A Novel (1994)

    Beverly Lowry, Oxford, MS 2004

Photo above by Nancy Jacobs

Nonfiction

  • Crossed Over:  A Murder, A Memoir (1992, 2002)  CBS movie of same name aired in March, 2002
  • Her Dream of Dreams:The Rise and Triumph of Madam C.J. Walker (2003)
  • Harriet Tubman: Imagining a Life: A Biography (2007)

Short Stories

  • Many short stories by Lowry have been published in Boston Globe, Playgirl, the Mississippi Review, Redbook, Houston City Magazine, and the Texas Humanist.

Book Reviews and Essays

  • Over twenty-one book reviews by Beverly Lowry have been printed in the New York Times alone but she has had reviews and essays printed in many magazines as well including Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Granta, Southern and others.

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Biography of Beverly (Fey) Lowry
By Michelle C. Lee (SHS)

Crossed Over by Beverly LowryOn August 10, 1938, Beverly Lowry was born in Memphis, Tennessee, but she grew up in Greenville, Mississippi.  Her parents are David Leonard and Dora Fey.  Lowry attended Ole Miss for two years (1956-58) before graduating from  Memphis State University in 1960 with a B.A. in drama and speech and English literature. That same year Lowry  married Glenn Lowry,  (they are no longer married), and they moved to New York City where she began a career in acting.  Lowry and her husband moved to Houston, Texas, in 1965.  In 1976 she became associate professor  of writing at the University of Houston.  Her first novel, Come Back, Lolly Rae, was published in 1977, followed by Emma Blue in 1978.   Both are set in the Mississippi town of Eunola (thought to be Greenville).  Two sons, Colin and Peter, were born to the Lowrys.

Beverly Lowry, photo by N. JacobsThe Lowrys moved to San Marcos, Texas, in 1981.  For six years Lowry did not write.  During that time both of her parents died and her younger son Peter was killed by a hit-and-run driver.  Her third novel The Perfect Sonya, which is about about a Baytown woman who went to New York and became an actress, was published in 1987.

Altogether Beverly Lowry is the writer of six novels, including Breaking Gentle (1988), The Perfect Sonya, Daddy's Girl, Emma Blue, Come Back, Lolly Ray, and The Track of Real Desires: A Novel (1992), which is essentially a novel about Greenville, Mississippi (called Eunola in the book) that Lowry wrote while living in Missoula, Montana.  In 1992, Lowry published her nonfiction book, Crossed Over:  A Murder, A Memoir, which was written while Lowry was grieving over the hit-and-run death of her eighteen year old son Peter and is about Karla Fay Tucker on Texas's death row. Having moved in 1992 to Los Angeles, Lowry published her most recent novel, The Track of Real Desires, which returns to the Eunola, Mississippi, setting.

Lowry lived for a time in Montana, writing non-fiction personal essays, doing feature journalism, writing book reviews, travel articles, doing interviews, and working on a new non-fiction book entitled  Her Dream of Dreams:  The Rise and Triumph of Madam C.J. Walker, which was published in 2003.

Currently, Lowry is the director of the Creative Non-fiction Program at George Mason University in Washington, D.C.

Beverly Lowry has received awards from the National Endowment of the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Black WarriorReview, the Texas Institute of Letters, and the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters. She has served as president of the Texas Institute of Letters.

She has won many awards, has written more than six novels and two non-fiction works.  She is director of the Creative Non-Fiction Program at George Mason University in Washington, D.C.

She appeared at the Oxford Conference of the Book held at the University of Mississippi in the spring of 2004.

UPDATE 2008: Beverly Lowry is now the author of seven novels and two nonfiction works: Crossed Over and Her Dream of Dreams. She was the recipient of the 2007 Richard Wright Literary Excellence Award at the Natchez Literary Festival. She was teaching at George Mason University and living in Washington,D.C., but she has moved to Austin, Texas

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A Review of The Track of Real Desires
by Michelle C. Lee (SHS)

The Track of Real Desires by Beverly LowryThirty-five years after leaving Eunola, Mississippi, Leland Standard comes home with her illegitimate nineteen year-old son and with her secrets to reveal.  This story involves a group of middle-aged friends who still view each other much the way they did during high school.  Most of the action takes place during Baker Farrish's dinner party, which is held for Leland in honor of her visit.  No one knows what will happen, but Leland has returned because she needs support in the possibility that she has breast cancer.  Eleven people sit at the table--Leland Standard, Toby Standard (her son), Totty Boyette, Dog, Baker Farrish, Mell Farrish, Roy Farrish, Jacky Nelms, Sissy, Jane Scott, and Carroll.  Leland talks to Jacky, telling him about her life and her possible breast cancer and about her recent boyfriend, Simon. Baker Farrish seems to enjoy inviting people who don't really like each other so he can watch them clash at his dinner party.  Baker is a funny and somewhat perceptive man who loves his wife, but she keeps herself more or less drugged with pills from her bathroom medicine cabinet. 

Michelle Lee (SHS)This book is difficult to get into because of the many characters and their problems.  They have all gotten off  "the track of real desires."  There are parts of the book that I didn't like reading, such as the sexual scenes.  At the end, I was left confused about what happened.  Sissy died in a car wreck. However, I wasn't sure how  that ties in with the rest of the story.  In all, this is probably one book a person has to get used to reading.  Most of the time I seemed to be reading descriptions of what one character likes or dislikes.  What I do get is that Leland wanted acceptance of her son and support in her possibility of breast cancer.  Leland had left the Delta at the age of sixteen under terms that were not particularly good.  In addition, she was looking for acceptance and recognition as a dancer.  In returning to the people she once knew in high school, Leland notices how much they have not changed.  Some of them cheat or neglect each other, hiding their real feelings and pretending to be happy.  This story has a meaning to be unmasked.

A Review of Breaking Gentle
by Summer Buntin (SHS)

Breaking Gentle by Beverly Lowry is a modern-day book about a week in the life of a family living on a Texas horse ranch. The family's home and barns are situated on sloping land and consists of sixty-eight acres. The ranch is twenty-two miles from Austin, Texas. Beverly Lowry describes the landscape as having visible limestone, cactus, and dark, stunted, wind-snarled trees which are in contrast with fields of white poppies.

Lowry has a real talent for creating characters. By the time you have finished the book, you feel as if you know the characters as well as you know some of your own family members. The characters are multi-layered. Lowry has a way of showing them at face value and then exposing the many complicated layers and the differences of each personality. The parents, Diana and Hale Caldwell, are perfectionists; but after further reading, they reveal imperfections, the most obvious of which is their child rearing. They both had authoritarian parents and neither wanted to be like that when it came to raising their own children. The irony of this is that they both considered themselves responsible, good people: two products of good child upbringing. This was the puzzle throughout to me.

The plot concerns a family with two teenage children, Roger and Bethany. Roger is college age , and Bethany is in high school. The children both have difficult problems. Bethany, by far, is the worst of the two children. She takes common teenage problems to the extreme so much that she is faced with the alternatives of staying in Cedar Hills, an institution that counsels teenagers and restricts their life styles, or actually going to prison until she is eighteen. Roger, on the other hand, has some goals but cannot make himself follow through with them. His free life style is not satisfactory to him or his parents. Robert is different from Bethany, however, because he has respect for his parents and wants his parents' love and approval.

The parents, Diana, who is a college professor and gardener, and Hale, who raises quarter horses, love and overindulge their children. The children, especially Bethany through her actions, cry for more discipline and family standards. The parents struggle with their chosen professions and with their children. When the story begins, there is no obvious solution to their problems, but by the conclusion there is a fragile understanding of each other that the family can build on in the future.

The theme of the book is the conflict between the generations. The problems that this family face probably came about from the free-thinking of this age as opposed to the beliefs and structure of another age. The structure of the Caldwell family is almost lost. The tone of each relationship is decided by the actions of the children. This book could be used as a teaching tool on how not to raise children.

My opinion of the book is mixed. I liked the style in which Lowry describes her characters. For example, Diana is described as one whose "peasant hands and royal wrists were a combination which in a way defined Diana, that blend of frailty and strength as if one had been wrongly attached to the other." The author's description of the differences in her body describes the conflict between the two generations of the same family. I especially liked the symbolism of the dog in the book. With all good intentions, the dog was given a freedom he had never before had and he paid the ultimate price for his new-found freedom. However, I feel Breaking Gentle is too graphic. The first page opens with a sex scene that did not contribute to the plot. I realize that is is a realistic part of life but could see no reason for the scene except to grab the reader's attention. Lowry is an accomplished author who does not need to stoop to that level to get our attention through basic curiosities. 

A Review of The Perfect Sonya
by Meah Staten (SHS)

The Perfect Sonya by Beverly Lowry was written to illustrate the struggle in life with one's mind, body, and soul. In this novel an extremely exuberant girl named Pauline Terry deals with life's trials and tribulations. Throughout her childhood and her womanhood, she experiences a variety of traumatizaing events that cause her to break down, only to realize how life comes and goes, never stopping for the benefit or pity of anyone.

Pauline Terry has come a long way from Baytown, Texas, to become a New York actress whose success in a performance of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya led one critic to call her "the perfect Sonya."  Never mind that she spends more time in acting classes preparing for her auditions than actually being an actress or that she swims in a fish tank in a bar in Fort Lee, New Jersey, for a living. She has married a brilliant playwright/director. She has even changed her name.

Pauline travels on a journey home to face her father's death, but she is confronted with the memory of another journey made long ago and secrets so painful that she has kept them from even herself. Not knowing where to go or what to do, she turns to an older man. Pauline is drawn to Will Hand, a charismatic professor and a nature writer who also happens to be her aunt's former husband. In the end their affair only pushes her farther and farther away from herself. When Pauline returns to New York, she comes to terms with herself and realizes the consequences of what happened. She must face the life she has tried to leave behind.

In conclusion, The Perfect Sonya is an overall fantastic novel. I highly recommend it. The novel is so real and portrays the life of an actress struggling through life in a way that captures the mind and heart of the reader. 

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Related Websites

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Bibliography

Author Beverly Lowry to speak November 12  News and Calendars.  October 30, 2003. May 14 2004
     <http://www.loyno.edu/newsandcalendars/release.php?id=594>.

Barnwell, Marion and Black Patti Carr.  Touring Literary Mississippi.  Jackson: Mississippi, 2002.  17     

Daddy's Girl' author to speak at Friends of Libraries event ”   Mississippi State University. March 18, 1998.  May 14, 2004 <http://www.ur.msstate.edu/news/stories/1998/lowry.asp>.

"The Nonfiction Faculty.”George Mason University.  2004.  May 14 2004     
    <http://www.gmu.edu/departments/writing/lowry.htm>.

Color images of Beverly Lowry by Nancy Jacobs, 2004

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Last updated March 20, 2008
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