Eudora Welty (who, I’m sure, with true Southern graciousness was always called Miss Eudora in the Mississippi town in which she lived) has written the flat-out funniest and most beguiling book to come out of Mississippi, or anywhere on the planet, in “Losing Battles.”

The story, slim as it is, takes place in the 1930s during a family reunion in honor of Granny Vaughan’s 90th birthday — a day made happier, indeed, by the return of her favorite grandson from jail. He’s greeted by his schoolteacher-now-wife and their baby. (No, this wasn’t a union that arose from cradle-snatching; it’s just that Jack lingered more than the usual number of years in every grade.) Amid the joyous eating of ripe watermelon, biscuits and fried chicken, there’s the incident of the automobile caught in a treetop — and more.

Four generations of Granny’s idiosyncratic and immensely lovable relatives in this human potluck are flavored with Miss Welty’s unique and joyous way with words.

 Carla Waldemar, Minneapolis

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