Southern Vapors chronicles the author’s life from childhood through college, law school, marriage, children, careers, and finally, the landscape of divorce and single parenthood. There are glimpses of her early life as an heiress-in-waiting, big white house more Tara than Tara itself, travels on a grand scale and glamour at home. The author’s careers make appearances—lawyer, retailer, administrative assistant, purveyor of vintage handbags, editor and writer.
The descent from the dizzying heights of prosperity follows, culminating in seven days locked in a low income mental institution. The author figures in most of the hospital scenes as the quintessential outsider, the observer, even when her eye is turned inward. A savvy country boy shows her new found respect when he mistakenly assumes that she drove to the hospital by herself as a way to plan her escape in advance. He was wrong, but she watches him make decisions about her both ways, first as a dumb chick hard to square with his image of a lawyer and then as a savvy lady who figured out how to work the system.
After her stay at the hospital, the author observes her mind as it ebbs and flows and skirts around depression, perhaps even madness. Southern Vapors describes her quest for recovery, from traditional therapy to Native American shamanism and everything in between. She explores her relationship with each parent, unearthing some long-held secrets and ultimately achieving reconciliation with her mother and a tentative peace with her father, who is no longer living. By the end of the book, the author has two years under her belt as a practicing attorney and has regained her emotional and mental footing. Her ascent back to health is clearly apparent and enormously inspiring.