This book looks like a memoir, and this book reads like a memoir, but the brief author's biography refers to her venture into "meta-fiction." Be warned. Because the book is written as a memoir, I chose, in my own piece of meta-fiction to review it as one.
DJ Mitsch was like lots of women; she meant to write a book and she had an attic full of journals calling out to be included. For almost ten years she didn't listen. Other things like children and a busy career called more loudly. Then one day a colleague challenged her not to "put GRITS on the back burner." Mitsch heeded her friend, climbed to the attic for the journals and started writing. Eight months later she had 1,400 pages. She distilled them into this book.
Mystic Grits balances journal entries ranging from the "Dear Diary, Today is my 10th birthday and I got this diary," records of a child to the deep spiritual ponderings of the woman she grew into. Each journal entry is followed by an expansion and reflection. One quibble on my part is that while the journal entries are attractive, set in the outline of a book with gray pages and a handwriting-like type, I found them very hard to read. In several of the entries, particularly the longer ones, I was distracted from the story because I had to focus so much energy on the act of reading.
The book is well named. Mitsch is definitely a GRITS—girl raised in the south. She gives a nod to Fannie Flagg who originated the term. She embraces her role. She loves being a girl and revels in being southern.
She did the southern girl thing when she graduated from high school. No matter that she had two university scholarship offers, she got married, apparently because her boyfriend asked her. But she was a strong southern woman—they come that way. She forged a couple of highly successful and demanding careers for herself. She was known by her employees in the radio industry as "Dragon Lady." When the boyfriend was history, she found her true love and with him has built both a strong family and a thriving business partnership.
This story can stand alone, but there is more, for Mitsch is a self-proclaimed and lifelong mystic. Her first ten-year-old journal entry recounts a Ouija Board experience. When she was a teenager driving along she saw a strange moving light and realized that "this was a sign we were not alone." At the time, she didn't tell about her experience. She is no longer hesitant—she tells all. While she is a practicing and active Methodist, she has "mystical experiences." Her long-dead and much beloved grandmother, Maw Maw and other "angel guides" are part of her life. (When Maw Maw is around, Mitsch can smell her snuff.) She believes in visions, dreams, past-lives, future-lives, automatic writing and more. She experiences deep revelations and feels it her mission to share them, hence this book.
Some may find her accounts of mysticism unsettling in the context of mainstream Christianity, but it is her story and she tells it well although at times a bit repetitively. (She loves those long baths with the candles burning—good antidote for stress.)
Darelyn DJ Mitsch is a business coach, wife and mother. She is the author of books on business and for children. She lives with her family in North Carolina. Share more of her experiences on her blog.
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