Critical Context

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon was Marjorie Kellogg’s first novel, and it created a tremendous sensation when it first appeared in 1968. Critics praised it almost unanimously, and it became a best-seller. Kellogg’s second novel, Like the Lion’s Tooth (1972), also deals with a trio of outcasts, in this case emotionally disturbed children. The author’s astonishingly accurate portrayal of hospitals and mental institutions and her sure understanding of the bureaucratic mentality are in part explained by her professional experience as a hospital social worker. Also a newspaper writer and a playwright, Kellogg wrote the screenplay for Otto Preminger’s unreleased 1970 film adaptation of Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon.

Many critics have found affinities between Kellogg’s fiction and the novels and short stories of the Southern women writers Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Connor, and Carson McCullers. With its emphasis on the grotesque, its hypersensitivity to emotional nuance, its eerie nonrealism (most characters have no surnames; the date is unspecified, as are the location and the name of the town), and its use of a romantic triangle of sorts, Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon does indeed seem heavily influenced by such Southern gothic tales as McCullers’s The Ballad of the Sad Café (1951). Kellogg shares with these writers the ability to illuminate lives that far too often go unnoticed by the healthy and the sane.