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Sweet Magnolias made quite a few changes from the books it is based on

Sarah Philip
Photo credit: Netflix

From Digital Spy

Sweet Magnolias brings Sherryl Woods' novels about family, friendship and love vividly to life.

Each of the first three books in the series focuses on one of the main trio. But the show's writers wanted to make sure that Maddie, Helen and Dana Sue were all in the spotlight at the same time, so they entwined the events of the first three books together.

In an interview with Verily Magazine, showrunner Sheryl J Anderson talked about the adaptation process.

"It's been wonderful working with a novelist who is open to collaborating. My goal was to honour the central themes, the central relationships of the books, and also to use key events."

They kept the book's key points and then added their own twists, changed the way certain events unfolded and created entirely new characters. Here's how the books are different from the show.

There's no car crash

Photo credit: Eliza Morse - Netflix

Throughout the show, we've seen Maddie's son Kyle bottle up his emotions. His parent's don't focus on his feelings about their divorce. They're too preoccupied with his brother Ty who is openly angry and resentful at his father for leaving their family. Kyle forms an unexpected bond with his father's mistress, Noreen, who also feels neglected.

After his friend Annie rejects his kiss and Noreen tells him she's leaving town, he runs away. When they eventually find him, his parents realise that he feels invisible. His mum comforts him and his dad buys him tickets to Hamilton, knowing he's interested in the theatre. But it's clear how insecure he still is.

At a party, his brother gets into a fight with a bully and Kyle tries to defend him. But Ty simply pushes him out of the way. Kyle's fed up of being ignored. He's so upset that he runs out of the party, takes Ty's car and ends up crashing it. The series' finale ends with Kyle getting airlifted to hospital and the paramedics trying to get to an unknown passenger.

In the books, Kyle is upset by his parents' divorce and retreats into himself. But he doesn't feel ignored by his parents and everyone else in his life, like he does in the show. There is no reference to him liking Annie and getting rejected, and he's not upset by Noreen leaving as they never got on. His pain doesn't keep building, as it does on the show. This means that he doesn't run away and never crashes Ty's car.

Cal is in danger of getting fired by the school for his relationship with Maddie

Photo credit: Netflix

The small town of Serenity is rife with gossip about the relationship between basketball coach Cal and Maddie, the mother of one of his students. In the show, one parent complains that Cal is favouring Maddie's son, Ty, but she's quickly dismissed when the assistant coach insists that Ty remains the star pitcher.

However in the books, things take a much more serious turn. The school Principal tells Cal that his relationship with the mother of one of his students is inappropriate. She warns him that steps might have to be taken against him, especially since he signed a morality clause. That's not his only problem. Many of the parents have complained that he's giving Ty preferential treatment.

Maddie and Cal also face the town's gossip which escalates much further than it does on the show and takes a much more disapproving tone. The towns' newspaper even prints an article implying that they are having a sordid affair. But Cal refuses to give up his relationship with Maddie.

The school board meets to decide whether disciplinary action should be taken with several parents demanding Cal should be fired. The Principal insists that he has failed to keep the moral standard the school expects from its teachers. But the head of the school board dismisses the case against Cal and warns against gossip.

Annie's health and her relationship with Ty

Photo credit: Eliza Morse - Netflix

In the books, Dana Sue's daughter, Annie, develops an unhealthy relationship with food. It ultimately leads to her having a cardiac arrest and getting admitted to hospital. Ty is the one who gets through to her, and they eventually grow closer and start dating.

There's nothing about eating disorders on the show. She likes Ty and even kisses him when she's drunk. Ty won't admit his feelings but we get a sense that he likes Annie.

Helen's main relationship is with Erik

Photo credit: Netflix

Throughout most of the series, Helen's committed to her boyfriend Ryan. They've been in an on-again, off-again relationship since they were teenagers. Helen is a successful lawyer. A case about the guardianship of two young children makes her realise how much she wants a baby. She tries talking to him about having kids, but Ryan tells her that he's seen too much death in his work with charities to ever contemplate having kids of his own.

Helen breaks up with him, unable to think about a future without her own children. She's comforted by her friends and Dana Sue's head chef, Erik. They've become close since he started working in Dana Sue's kitchen. Although he's always liked her, she's never really noticed him in a romantic sense. She's been too preoccupied with Ryan. But there are hints that they might get together in the next series.

Helen, in the books, has an almost immediate spark with Erik. Their relationship is more passionate and she's quickly drawn to him, especially since Ryan doesn't exist. She mainly works as a divorce lawyer rather than taking on different cases as she does in the series. So, she's more cynical about love and has never really had a serious relationship. In fact, she's a complete workaholic.

But as she starts thinking about having a baby, she takes a step back. She takes in sous-chef Karen's children for a few weeks when the single mother gets overwhelmed by her work and family commitments. Erik helps her with the kids and she almost feels like they could be a family. They start a relationship and fall in love.

Isaac doesn’t exist and Dana Sue has a completely different sous-chef

Photo credit: Eliza Morse - Netflix

Dana Sue's sous-chef, Isaac, comes to Serenity to look for his birth parents. He comes to believe that Dana Sue is his mother and that his father could be her old flame who invested in the restaurant. Dana Sue has made him feel like family in her kitchen and completely accepted him. So, there's a huge part of him that desperately wants her to be his mother.

There's no one like Issac in the books. Dana Sue's sous-chef Karen is a single mother who struggles between the pressures of her job and taking care of her children. She is part of the kitchen family but there are times when Dana Sue comes close to firing her as she keeps failing to turn up to work because of child care difficulties. We could see Karen in a future series.

But we'll just have to wait and see how the writers adapt the books for season two (if we get one).

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