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Domestic Daybook Evokes A Vanished Rural South

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AT first, Magnolia Wynn Le Guin seems to be that which she called herself: a home-concealed woman. The mainstay of her husband, her aged parents, and eight young children, this rural Georgia farm wife seldom made it out-of-doors. ``I almost despair sometimes of ever having a chance to leave home, to stay in open air and enjoy outdoor life, birds and sunshine, blue skies and moon and stars, hills and trees, water,'' she lamented.

Indeed, Magnolia Le Guin did not spend a night away from home for 15 years, nor take a meal outside her residence for five. In delicate health and wearied from never-ending chores, she felt chronically behind in responsibilities.

``I never catch up with my work and I work all the time someway,'' she wrote in the journal she kept on and off for 13 years.

Numerous evenings she was so fatigued that sleep became just another task - something she must do so that she could work even harder. ``I am so tired, so tired but must go on and cook supper and churn, wash dishes, cook pumpkin and go to bed,'' she noted.

Though her life was isolated and severe, Magnolia Le Guin was no passive hostage to circumstance. She managed to take a bit of time for herself, even if it meant delaying her labors.

As she put it: ``I haven't time to write - am leaving sewing undone to scribble now - needed sewing too. I love to write.''

And write she did, with a touching honesty that is poignant yet never sentimental. Records of her children's progress (``Traviss put on pants this week and bid his dresses goodbye'') mingle with murmurs of the heart (``Six dark years - after I became a mother - six dark years in sin in my mother and father's life when I should have been a great blessing to them....''). Her fears (``This is the last Christmas we feel sure that we will ever spend with my father in this life'') are suspended by her pleasures (``October! Glorious month ... casts a spell over me ... ''). Constant physical exhaustion resounds throughout the journal like a long sigh.

The diary begins in earnest almost 10 years after her marriage to Ghu Gilbert Le Guin and their move to her parents' homestead, Wynn's Mill. At 32 years old, she has borne four children, three of whom survive. She greets subsequent pregnancies with a mixture of excitement and foreboding.

In addition to the satisfaction she takes in her family, religion and reading sustain her. When she cannot attend a camp meeting she begins to cry: ``there were nine of us - six babies - I had no chance to go.''

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