Seventy-five years later, to the delight of Scarlett O’Hara enthusiasts, Margaret Mitchell's beloved southern saga continues, but this time it’s taking a step backwards in time. Atria Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, announced Wednesday that an authorized Gone with the Wind prequel is in the works, set to release this October.
You may not know it, but there are three main characters in the epic 1936 classic — Scarlett O’Hara, Rhett Butler, and Mammy. That most people don’t consider the faithful family servant a central character is something that author Donald McCaig has set out to fix with the forthcoming novel, which will center on the life of the sharp-tongued and compassionate Mammy.
“Scarlett and Rhett are familiars," McCaig told the New York Times, "but when it comes to the third, we don’t know where she was born, if she was ever married, if she ever had children. Indeed, we don’t even know her name.”
And indeed, the prequel, entitled “Ruth’s Journey,” will not only give Mammy a name, but also a vivid backstory. Ruth’s story begins in the French colony of Saint-Domingue, now Haiti, when, in 1804, she is taken from her home and transported to the plantation fields of Savannah, Georgia. Over the course of 416 pages, as her journey unfolds, readers will learn about an early marriage and a connection to Rhett Butler’s family that explains Ruth's hostile treatment of Rhett, among other intriguing character details and colorful additions to the classic’s plot. While most of the Ruth’s story is told in third person, the last third of the book is written from Ruth’s perspective and in her own dialect.
“What’s really remarkable about what Donald has done is that it’s a book that respects and honors its source material, but it also provides a necessary correction to what is one of the more troubling aspects of the book, which is how the black characters are portrayed,” Peter Borland, the editorial director of Atria, told the New York Times.
Southern historical fiction is nothing new to McCaig, best known for his 1998 award-winning Civil War novel Jacob's Ladder, nor or Gone with the Wind spin-offs. McCraig wrote the 2007 authorized spin-off Rhett Butler's People focused on Rhett.
Though booksellers are uncertain about the novel's blockbuster-potential, the prequel is expected to be a hit among Gone with the Wind admirers craving a bit more of the southern epic. Fork it over now.