In late June, a friend and I traveled into Central Georgia, looking for Flannery O’Connor.
Mary Ann had never heard of Flannery O’Connor. She didn’t know Hazel Motes from a hole in the ground and assured me she had never encountered “A Good Man Is Hard To Find“ or “The Life You Save May Be Your Own.” Mary Ann’s literary tastes run in a different stream, and she was strictly along for the adventure.
All of that notwithstanding, it was Mary Ann who finally conjured up the spirit of Flannery O’Connor for us.
That Saturday morning we dropped from the Carolina mountains into Piedmont Georgia and followed Route 441 toward Milledgeville, where O’Connor spent the last 13 years of her short life—she died at 39 of lupus—living on a nearby dairy and beef farm with her mother, Regina. Driving into town from this farm, which the family called by its original name of Andalusia, meant for O’Connor a three-mile jaunt through pastures, barns, and scruffy pine. Corporate America has since set its stamp on Milledgeville, and that same stretch of road is today a plastic strip of motels, fast-food restaurants, shopping malls, and outlet stores.
At Andalusia we parked in a gravel lot behind the house. The custodians of the property have retained nearly all of the 500-odd acres formerly owned by the O’Connors. ...