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Among the Beautiful Beasts

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Set in the early 1900s, Among the Beautiful Beasts is the untold story of the early life of Marjory Stoneman Douglas, known in her later years as a tireless activist for the Florida Everglades. After a childhood spent in New England estranged from her father and bewildered by her mother, who fades into madness, Marjory marries a swindler thirty years her senior. The marria Set in the early 1900s, Among the Beautiful Beasts is the untold story of the early life of Marjory Stoneman Douglas, known in her later years as a tireless activist for the Florida Everglades. After a childhood spent in New England estranged from her father and bewildered by her mother, who fades into madness, Marjory marries a swindler thirty years her senior. The marriage nearly destroys her, but Marjory finds the courage to move to Miami, where she is reunited with her father and begins a new life as a journalist in that bustling, booming frontier town. Buoyed by a growing sense of independence and an affair with a rival journalist, Marjory embraces a life lived at the intersection of the untamed Everglades and the rapacious urban development that threatens it. When the demands of a man once again begin to swallow Marjory's own desires and dreams, she sees herself in the vulnerable, inimitable Everglades and is forced to decide whether to commit to a life of subjugation or leap into the wild unknown. Told in chapters that alternate between an urgent midnight chase through the wetlands and extensive narrative flashbacks, Among the Beautiful Beasts is at once suspenseful and deeply reflective.


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Set in the early 1900s, Among the Beautiful Beasts is the untold story of the early life of Marjory Stoneman Douglas, known in her later years as a tireless activist for the Florida Everglades. After a childhood spent in New England estranged from her father and bewildered by her mother, who fades into madness, Marjory marries a swindler thirty years her senior. The marria Set in the early 1900s, Among the Beautiful Beasts is the untold story of the early life of Marjory Stoneman Douglas, known in her later years as a tireless activist for the Florida Everglades. After a childhood spent in New England estranged from her father and bewildered by her mother, who fades into madness, Marjory marries a swindler thirty years her senior. The marriage nearly destroys her, but Marjory finds the courage to move to Miami, where she is reunited with her father and begins a new life as a journalist in that bustling, booming frontier town. Buoyed by a growing sense of independence and an affair with a rival journalist, Marjory embraces a life lived at the intersection of the untamed Everglades and the rapacious urban development that threatens it. When the demands of a man once again begin to swallow Marjory's own desires and dreams, she sees herself in the vulnerable, inimitable Everglades and is forced to decide whether to commit to a life of subjugation or leap into the wild unknown. Told in chapters that alternate between an urgent midnight chase through the wetlands and extensive narrative flashbacks, Among the Beautiful Beasts is at once suspenseful and deeply reflective.

30 review for Among the Beautiful Beasts

  1. 4 out of 5

    Joan Happel

    A beautifully written and absorbing novel about the early life and career of Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Known in her later life as and activist for the Florida Everglades, Marjory first had to overcome a difficult childhood and disastrous first marriage. Born in New England, Marjory experiences the estrangement of her father and her mother’s spiral into mental illness. She is sent to live with her grandparents and aunt, who take her under their loving wings and encourage her pursuit of an educati A beautifully written and absorbing novel about the early life and career of Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Known in her later life as and activist for the Florida Everglades, Marjory first had to overcome a difficult childhood and disastrous first marriage. Born in New England, Marjory experiences the estrangement of her father and her mother’s spiral into mental illness. She is sent to live with her grandparents and aunt, who take her under their loving wings and encourage her pursuit of an education. After graduating from college, she struggles to find a career path, and falls under the charms of an alcoholic con man. As her marriage drags her under both mentally and physically, she escapes her husband and moves to Miami where she is reunited with her father. Encouraged to pursue a career in journalism, Marjory is soon caught up in booming real estate of Miami and the surrounding area. While awaiting her divorce to be final, Marjory meets a fellow journalist and falls in love. They are separated by WWI and upon her fiancé’s return, she finds that she must choose between her own career or a life with another mentally wounded man. This is a story of struggle and resilience. Set against the backdrop of a fascinating time in early Florida history, Marjory’s story resonates even today. The difficulties of dealing with mental illness and the pressure on women to choose between their own wants and needs and the needs of those they love. This is a vivid and well-crafted novel, with engaging and descriptive prose. A riveting historical fiction novel, it will appeal to a wide variety of readers and is a great book for reading groups to tackle. Thank you to She Writes Press and NetGalley for the e-ARC.

  2. 5 out of 5

    KarenK2

    I received this from Netgalley.com. An okay fictionalized story of the early life of Marjory Stoneman Douglas, known in her later years as a tireless activist for the Florida Everglades. 3☆

  3. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    As a young girl Marjory Stoneman loved her mother fiercely.  Her creativity, imagination and love of life inspired Marjory.  However, her mother's passion soon revealed a mental illness that forced Marjory's father to leave and Marjory and her mother to return to her mother's home in Taunton, Massachusetts.  At her grandparent's house, Marjory does not receive much affection, but she does receive an education at Wellesley where she learns the joys of writing and becomes involved in women's suffr As a young girl Marjory Stoneman loved her mother fiercely.  Her creativity, imagination and love of life inspired Marjory.  However, her mother's passion soon revealed a mental illness that forced Marjory's father to leave and Marjory and her mother to return to her mother's home in Taunton, Massachusetts.  At her grandparent's house, Marjory does not receive much affection, but she does receive an education at Wellesley where she learns the joys of writing and becomes involved in women's suffrage.  After school, Marjorie becomes entangled with Kenneth Douglas, a swindler who eventually tries to get money out of Marjorie's estranged father.  This works out well for Marjorie as she is reunited with her father, works for him at his newspaper in Miami and becomes enthralled with the wild environment of the Everglades. Written in beautiful,  flowing, prose that captures the spirit of Marjorie Stoneman Douglass and her writing, Among the Beautiful Beasts artfully tells the story of Marjorie Stoneman Douglas' life.  Beginning with Marjory's early life, we are able to see where her passion stems from as well as how her early life set her up for a life of independence and activism.  I loved the descriptions of the Everglades and the wild that existed in Florida before it was developed.  Seeing the Everglades through Marjory's eyes helped to see how she became captivated with the wilderness.  I enjoyed learning about Marjory's life and how she constantly fought for her independence and what she believed was right. Overall, an amazing story about a captivating and determined woman. This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 

  4. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    Marjory Stoneman Douglas loved her new home in Florida and her job writing for her father's newspaper. She arrived in 1915, a crucial time when developers were dredging up the sea bottom to create coastal retreats, destroying the ecosystem of the unique habitat known as the Everglades. Marjory's adored mother was mentally ill, causing her father to leave them when she was a girl. Her mother in an asylum, Marjory was cared for by grandparents and an aunt who supported her college education. She fo Marjory Stoneman Douglas loved her new home in Florida and her job writing for her father's newspaper. She arrived in 1915, a crucial time when developers were dredging up the sea bottom to create coastal retreats, destroying the ecosystem of the unique habitat known as the Everglades. Marjory's adored mother was mentally ill, causing her father to leave them when she was a girl. Her mother in an asylum, Marjory was cared for by grandparents and an aunt who supported her college education. She found work writing for a newspaper. Marjory considered herself to be plain; then she met a man who swept her off her feet and she leapt into marriage, learning his true history and nature too late. To escape, Marjory joined her estranged father in Florida, writing for his newspaper. Waiting for her divorce to be granted, Marjory falls in love. WWI separates them, and when he returns, she must decide between marriage to a wounded soul or a career and work as an activist to protect the Everglades. The imagined early life of Marjory Stoneman Douglas is a story of a woman rising above the limitations of family and social constraints. The novel is in her voice, and told in alternating time lines of her early life within a suspenseful frame story. It is a page-turner. The novel offers a vivid portrait of Florida, Miami Beach merely an idea, Coconut Grove isolated cottages. Marjory witnesses how a sand bar and mangrove swamp was drained and filled in to create Miami Beach. He was stealing the land--changing it, moving it, using it--but unlike a common thief, he felt no need to hide.~ from Among the Beautiful Beasts by Lori McMullen Now, I want a second volume that tells the story of her life's work as a writer and activist! Marjory lived to be 108 years old! I received a free egalley from the publisher through NetGalley. My review is fair and unbiased.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Helen Hollick

    I have to confess that I had not heard of Marjory Stoneman Douglas and, as there is nothing in the file I was sent to indicate otherwise, I assumed that this novel was entirely a work of fiction. That fact will have a bearing on some of my thoughts about the book. The novel begins with Marjory as a very small child, and straight away I was struck by how beautifully Ms McMullen writes. She has Marjory talking of evening strolls with her mother, where they 'walked past the school, past my bedtime.' I have to confess that I had not heard of Marjory Stoneman Douglas and, as there is nothing in the file I was sent to indicate otherwise, I assumed that this novel was entirely a work of fiction. That fact will have a bearing on some of my thoughts about the book. The novel begins with Marjory as a very small child, and straight away I was struck by how beautifully Ms McMullen writes. She has Marjory talking of evening strolls with her mother, where they 'walked past the school, past my bedtime.' Marjory's words one night become 'sluggish with yawns'. She speaks very much like a child in these chapters, telling us how she had to wear glasses to 'stop my left eye from watching my nose'. Reading aloud with her father, when she still can't see or read very well, she tells us that when it came to her turn, the story 'revealed itself almost in hiccups.' Particularly well-crafted was the scene where Marjory's maiden aunt is buttoning up the child's dress when her niece asks an innocent question about the aunt's life. Marjory tells us that 'those buttons must have been really stubborn' because suddenly the aunt is tugging on them. Here we see what the child does not: she has touched a raw nerve with the aunt who feels her life has been wasted. Marjory's mother is mentally ill and we are told that she is sent away to be fixed by strangers who 'glued her together but could only guess what the original should look like.' I found this section of the book incredibly moving, and when, as Marjory goes off to college and her grandmother metaphorically takes the blanket of responsibility from her shoulders, I actually cried for this poor young woman. There is an astuteness in the portrayal of Marjory's journey to adulthood, and when she returns from college she talks of how the house has changed, but also not changed, while she's been away. Of course we understand that it is she who has changed, but at the time, Marjory cannot see it. The middle section of the book, which deals with Marjory's marriage, somehow jarred with the earlier part and didn't ring quite true (see my comment above - I had no idea that this was a true story and, actually, in terms of her husbands' duplicity, it seems to have been played down. It really is a remarkable story and the plot device used to move the story on, which I noted as being 'very clever', was also true). The storyline felt a little implausible and now I understand why, but I also lost any sense of historical setting in this portion. With talk of phones, and wearing heels, a hat, and carrying a purse, it could have been anytime in the 20th or 21st century. I wonder now if the author was also struggling to make an astounding episode ring true. Of course, any young woman born in the late 19th century will have lived through WWI. Here, deep emotion is described in succinct phrases. Marjory speaks of the 'purgatory of farewell' - that long moment of goodbye while you are trying to recall every detail of the last meeting - and asks 'was there ever a lonelier sound than the silence that followed a waning train blast?' In this, as in so many other parts of the book, the author really gets inside Marjory's head and heart. In Paris at the latter stages of the war, Marjory has a reunion and finds herself chattering too much. Haven't we all done that? She mimics someone they both knew and then tells us about the 'echo of her preposterous accent' hanging around. The embarrassment is keenly shown, and felt by the reader. We are also reminded that those who experienced such times could not simply leave it behind with the armistice: 'War was most senseless at the moment it ended.' It's clear that the author has studied creative writing, but luckily her lyrical style always stops short of being cloyingly descriptive or overly 'show-offy'. She has a pithy way of describing characters. One, the botanist Fairchild, exists in 'a constant state of rearranging' - in other words he's a fidget. I loved these tight summings-up of characters, but would have preferred Marjory's best friend Carolyn to have been a more rounded figure; we didn't seem to see her tics and foibles in quite the same way. There were some odd continuity errors, specifically with names. A young woman, Frances, often became Francis, switching several times between the two and sometimes even on the same page. Joe Cotten also at some point became Joe Cotton. Since I read this a few months before publication, I'm assuming that we were sent an ARC and these small proofreading issues will by now have been ironed out. I must reiterate that I read this as if it were complete fiction, and thus needed to think about the overall shape of the book and the themes. On that basis, does it work as a novel? Yes, because the very separate threads of Marjory's life come together and show how the needs of others threatened to suffocate her, but I also got the sense that her life seems to have served as a metaphor for what was happening, not just in the US but to the wider world. Technology, development, emancipation: all of these affect the people in the book, including Grandmother Florence who wants so much to vote, just once, before she dies. Ms McMullen has taken a true life story and turned it into a very readable novel. She imbues Marjory with many qualities, all of them likeable. The only thing that was perhaps missing was that, whilst Marjory mentions often that she is a writer of fiction, we don't see her success in that field. I looked her up after I'd read the book and was staggered by how many of the details of her life the author has managed to slot into the novel, seamlessly. I suspect though that at least one major character is completely fictional, and it would have been enlightening to have some author's notes at the end, firstly to explain to those like me who had not heard of Marjory, and secondly to point out which aspects of her life had been fictionalised. It would seem that this is Ms McMullen's first book. As a work of fiction, it is sublime. As a retelling of a true story, it is wonderful. As a debut novel, it's a triumph. Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds

  6. 5 out of 5

    Bri Craig

    Among the Beautiful Beasts is a fictionalized story of Marjory Stoneman Douglas, the woman who would become a phenomenal activist for the Florida Everglades. This book takes place in the early 1900s, during Marjory’s early life - her childhood with a mother suffering from mental illness, her educational pursuit, her marriage to an alcoholic criminal, and her escape to Miami. Miami holds so much potential, from the enduring promise of growth to the beautiful Everglades. Perhaps here, Marjory fina Among the Beautiful Beasts is a fictionalized story of Marjory Stoneman Douglas, the woman who would become a phenomenal activist for the Florida Everglades. This book takes place in the early 1900s, during Marjory’s early life - her childhood with a mother suffering from mental illness, her educational pursuit, her marriage to an alcoholic criminal, and her escape to Miami. Miami holds so much potential, from the enduring promise of growth to the beautiful Everglades. Perhaps here, Marjory finally has the chance to heal from the traumas of her past. I really enjoyed this book. The author, Lori McMullen, does an excellent job of picking snapshots of Marjory’s life, then interweaving them with a heart-pounding chase scene (just to keep you on your toes). This is a beautifully written story about one woman’s journey of self-discovery and growth. Marjory is not perfect, but she is witty and intelligent, and it's so rewarding to watch her become a more empowered woman with each chapter. Recommended: For fans of Where the Crawdads Sing, and fans of character-based stories.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Halee

    < I received this novel as an ARC from NetGalley. > 4/5 stars A fictionalized telling of the life of Marjory Stoneman Douglas, a writer, women’s suffrage advocate, and conservationist. The novel is structured mostly chronologically and focuses on her childhood and young adult life with occasional and brief chapters set in the future. The author is descriptive and her sensory writing made me feel like I was right there with the characters. I felt transported to the Florida Everglades like I was in < I received this novel as an ARC from NetGalley. > 4/5 stars A fictionalized telling of the life of Marjory Stoneman Douglas, a writer, women’s suffrage advocate, and conservationist. The novel is structured mostly chronologically and focuses on her childhood and young adult life with occasional and brief chapters set in the future. The author is descriptive and her sensory writing made me feel like I was right there with the characters. I felt transported to the Florida Everglades like I was in the middle of a swamp surrounded by the sights, smells, and humidity. Ultimately, this is a story about finding inner strength and purpose in life.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sheila R

    Beautifully written story about Marjory Stonemans Douglas and her life before living in Florida to defend the Everglades. Marjory’s resilience and determination are visible as we read about her family relationships and friends. The language is beautiful and the story compelling.

  9. 4 out of 5

    TM

    A gorgeous debut novel about a woman I wish I'd known about sooner. A fascinating storyline and beautiful imagery make this a book I'd highly recommend. A gorgeous debut novel about a woman I wish I'd known about sooner. A fascinating storyline and beautiful imagery make this a book I'd highly recommend.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bethany (bookish.bethany)

    Happy almost #PubDay to AMONG THE BEAUTIFUL BEASTS by Lori McMullen! As someone living in South Florida, I was excited to be offered a fictionalized version of the early life of Marjory Stoneman Douglas - a reporter, conservationist, and advocate for the Everglades. This book wasn’t my favorite, but I fully recognize it’s because I was probably anticipating something completely different - I was thinking we would get a bit more about her passion and advocacy efforts for the Everglades. However, t Happy almost #PubDay to AMONG THE BEAUTIFUL BEASTS by Lori McMullen! As someone living in South Florida, I was excited to be offered a fictionalized version of the early life of Marjory Stoneman Douglas - a reporter, conservationist, and advocate for the Everglades. This book wasn’t my favorite, but I fully recognize it’s because I was probably anticipating something completely different - I was thinking we would get a bit more about her passion and advocacy efforts for the Everglades. However, this truly focused on her earlier life, her schooling, her first marriage, her journalism career, and her time spent during one of the world wars. If you are a fan of historical fiction, character driven stories with slower pacing, and maybe a love for South Florida - this one may for you! AMONG THE BEAUTIFUL BEASTS is releasing tomorrow, June 1! Thank you to @netgalley, @booksforwardpr and @shewritespress for the ARC to review. https://www.instagram.com/bookish.bet...

  11. 5 out of 5

    Shangread-La

    Among the Beautiful Beasts is a hauntingly lovely fictional tale based on the early life of environmental activist Marjory Stoneman Douglas. The story begins during her childhood in the early nineteenth century as her parents are torn apart by her mother’s mental illness. Marjory struggles to adjust to her extended family and tries to cope with her mother’s condition while coming into her own. Through many trials, Marjory eventually finds her happy place in the natural world and becomes inspired Among the Beautiful Beasts is a hauntingly lovely fictional tale based on the early life of environmental activist Marjory Stoneman Douglas. The story begins during her childhood in the early nineteenth century as her parents are torn apart by her mother’s mental illness. Marjory struggles to adjust to her extended family and tries to cope with her mother’s condition while coming into her own. Through many trials, Marjory eventually finds her happy place in the natural world and becomes inspired to preserve its splendor in the face of human progress. The writing is top notch in this gorgeous novel. It brims with imagery to immerse the reader in Marjory’s world. The story alternates between Marjory’s past and present life with brief flashes forward to create tension and suspense. Watching Marjory struggle to breathe in her attempts to have her own life in the face of her family obligations is at once heartbreaking and inspiring. Her missteps are many, and I found myself wanting her to succeed through it all even though I didn’t always understand her motivations. This one is a standout, especially for a debut novel. It is an excellent historical fiction work and I hope to see more from author Lori McMullen.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Francisco Leonardo

  13. 4 out of 5

    Marilyn Goncalves

  14. 4 out of 5

    Pevebe

  15. 5 out of 5

    Emily Lacey

  16. 5 out of 5

    Vapafe

  17. 5 out of 5

    Liz Kloster

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jean

  19. 4 out of 5

    Fragode

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mary Jane Ryals

  21. 5 out of 5

    Godefr

  22. 4 out of 5

    Cassidy

  23. 4 out of 5

    Brittany Ross

  24. 4 out of 5

    Isabella N. P.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Joyce

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ann Kosinski

  27. 5 out of 5

    Karen Lawrence

  28. 5 out of 5

    Hecoci

  29. 4 out of 5

    Albert K. Shaw

  30. 4 out of 5

    Katie Albano

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