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Publishers Weekly, others praise Rheta Grimsley Johnson memoir Enchanted Evening Barbie

Publishers Weekly calls Rheta Grimsley Johnson’s new memoir Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming a “notable story of [a] devoted journalist,” and indeed the Birmingham News‘s Kathy Kemp notes that “to many young, Southern female journalists making their way in the 1980s, Rheta Grimsley Johnson was our hero and role model, not to mention the best writer we’d ever read.”

This praise comes as part of a bevy of well-deserved positive reviews for Rheta’s new book. Alabama Public Radio’s Don Noble has called Enchanted Evening Barbie “moving [and] utterly believable,” and John Branston of the Memphis Flyer‘s “City Beat” blog noted that “good [memoirs] have perspective, emotional highs and lows, sharp writing, strange places, revealing glimpses of famous people, and humor … [Enchanted Evening Barbie is] a good one.”

Kemp notes that in writing the emotional Enchanted Evening Barbie, Rheta found inspiration in Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking:

[Enchanted Evening Barbie] traces the life of a busy girl and woman who, right out of Auburn, started a small newspaper in Georgia. She married a newspaper cartoonist, moved from here to there, got divorced, dated a man who killed himself in front of her, married for a second time to the man of her dreams and then found him dead at home, last March, four days after his heart surgery.

“Joan [Didion] said you expect to be crazy with grief when you lose a spouse, but you don’t expect to be literally crazy.”

Rheta still sounds tender when talking about her late husband, journalist Don Grierson, a UAB journalism professor … She’s having minor second thoughts about having published the memoir, but she hopes it will help someone in the way Didion’s book helped her. And, as always, Rheta couldn’t stop herself from writing it.

As Florence-Lauderdale Library director Nancy Sanford told the Times-Daily, “Knowing how much women’s lives have changed in the last 25 to 30 years, and how our expectations change, I think that’s hit a chord, and I think [Enchanted Evening Barbie] is going to hit a chord for us.” NewSouth is proud to see that chord already beginning to resonate.

Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming is available directly from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite local or online book retailer.