Today I am featuring Jo-Ann Costa and her book The Bequest of Big Daddy. The Bequest of Big Daddy is a historical fiction novel that takes place in the south spanning from pre-Civil War to the early 1980’s. This is a wonderful slice of American History brought to life. Be sure to read my entire review after the book blurb.
From a Reconstruction-era logging industry to the decaying ruins of a doomed plantation with its dying social system but a memory, The Bequest of Big Daddy is evocative of all that was wrong in the post-Civil War South. At its heart, this is the story of a man born to Southern aristocracy then reduced to peasantry, who spawns an empire of outcasts, heroes and heroines—among them a great-granddaughter who is determined to learn the truth about her kin’s hushed, painful past.
This often dark tale of family betrayals, separations and reunions, is set in motion at the deathbed of Ratio Janson, a crusty patriarch with an infamous background, a hair-trigger temper and a feisty great-granddaughter named Jo-Dee. From the shocking gossip she overhears at his funeral, Jo-Dee is determined to plumb the murky past as the protective skin of Ratio’s story falls away. Will she betray her great-grandfather and disgrace the family name, or will she preserve his shameful secret? Either way, will Big Daddy’s spirit claim her even from the grave? Sometimes, a bit of violence in the blood is a good thing.
The Bequest of Big Daddy is a fantastic historical fiction novel. Jo-ann Costa really brings the life of a strong-willed, no-nonsense, rough around the edges southern patriarch to vivid reality. Horatio “Ratio” Janson lives such a varied life that it is almost too much for one person to endure. He experiences everything from the scant love of a mother to charges of a heinous crime to the love of a good wife to the conviction of an unforgivable act. Ratio lives to see many women in and out of his bed and many legitimate and illegitimate children through out his life. Most of this story is the illustration of a man who must weather many storms and face many enemies. He comes out of each challenge a harder yet wiser man.
Jo-ann Costa’s ability to bring these long forgotten, unless seen in movies, characters is phenomenal. Her illustration of the deep south in a time of turmoil and change for both white and black people brings to mind the movie Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. The larger than life Ratio is a character that epitomizes this life and era. Overall, one of the best historical fiction books I’ve read in a while. I can’t wait to read what Jo-ann writes next. If you liked the movies Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Gone with the Wind then you will love The Bequest of Big Daddy.
Novelist Jo-Ann Costa, formerly Director of Public Affairs for a California-based Fortune 500 company founded by the late Howard Hughes, a member of several state and national Boards of Directors, a Deputy to the California Business Roundtable, and President of the Board of Philanthropy for her firm, left the corporate world in 2002. Along with the other wildlife, Ms. Costa now makes her home at the edge of Colorado’s Weminuche wilderness, where she writes historical fiction and mysteries.
A Southerner by birth, Ms. Costa’s historical fiction and short stories are woven from the fabric of her people and the landscape of her youth, while her mystery stories arise from her experiences living and working in Southern California. She is a graduate of California State University, the University of Southern California’s Managerial Policy Institute, Leadership Southern California and the Public Affairs Institute.
The Bequest of Big Daddy is the first book in her epic saga, Longleaf Legacy.