I had avoided reading this for a variety of reasons, but primarily because I assumed that its popularity rendered it unworthy of my attention. Forgive me for my foolish snobbery because this is an absorbing tale of bravery and self-actualization. The three memorable women who narrate this novel are as different in temperament and background as the inhabitants of Downton Abbey, another story about class distinctions in an insular world that is about to burst apart. These three women risk everything to overcome the limitations imposed upon them by their status, and collectively they achieve a level of freedom that none of them could have imagined before. Their individual stories are riveting and their shared success is satisfying on many levels. It humanizes the civil rights movement for those of us who only read about it in history books and it paints a indelible portrait of the American South that is both harrowing and heroic. It is as heartbreaking as it is humorous and it reminds us that although life is a messy business, sometimes things work out just like we hoped they would.