All the Pretty Things...

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

First off, I am so sorry I have been sporadic in my reviews recently. A month into my husband's most recent "vacation" I am reminded that deployments suck...there isn't really any other way of saying it, and I am blessed to not have little ones at home that I'm trying to put on a happy face for (and kudos to all of you ladies out there raising little ones on your own, under any circumstances because it is hard work). I can't pinpoint the issue, but the general suckiness combined with a bad week at work made for a woman who would rather veg on the couch watching Jessica Jones (David Tennant anyone?!?) while knocking back a few hard ciders than read a book. Call me human...and honest. Please forgive me. I will be busting tush to get back on my M-W-F schedule asap.

So...I finished a book finally, yay!! My insomnia reared it's ugly head and I finished All the Pretty Things by Edie Wadsworth at about 5:30 am after being up for most of the night. We'll see if it clouds my review in any way. Maybe I need to make a sass-o-meter and see if it peaks on the days I haven't slept much. Or a pie-chart. NO, a graph!! Maybe now is a good time to tell you that I get a little weird when I haven't slept. Like...embarrass your kid for singing in line at the store weird. Inappropriate joke weird. And none of this fits the tone of the book I'm reviewing, so I'm not sure why I'm still typing about it.

All the Pretty Things was one of the books I ordered recently that I pulled out for my Book Haul video on Facebook. It was billed as Glass Castle-esque, which is what I'm reading for my Book Club this month and have heard terrific things about. It also has the subtitle of "The Story of a Southern Girl Who Went Through Fire to Find Her Way Home", which I found intriguing. I am fascinated by southern fiction, as a girl whose heart calls Louisiana home. I love the South...and dysfunctional families, so I figured a combination would probably be a win for me.

This memoir is all about Edie and her daddy, whom she loves dearly.

Edie is born into a loving but poor Appalachian family. Her mother had her older brother very young and had to drop out of school...but is working her tail off at multiple jobs to better herself and take care of her babies. Her charismatic father didn't make it past the 8th grade, and is an alcoholic with a love for country music and dancing. In spite of her upbringing, Edie becomes a doctor...but her life is tainted and greatly impacted by her father and her unstable childhood. It isn't until she loses most of her belongings in a fire and really finds God that her life feels right. This memoir covers most everything in between those two events.

Edie very matter-of-factly describes a childhood filled with hunger and instability. She longs to spend more time with her daddy, even if it involves riding in his truck to bars and waiting on him while feeding her little sister chips and RC Cola...until she finally has to pee and goes in to drag her dad out drunk and shirtless to take her back to her Mamaw's house, where she puts him to bed like a good girl. Her early years are filled with fights, trailers burning down, and an extended family of down and outs.

Her teen years are filled with both longing to spend time with her absent father, and being embarrassed he'll actually show up to a school function. She excels in school and athletics, even being crowned Homecoming Queen (which Dad shows up for, in a new clean suit with new false teeth). She is constantly trying to win his attention with accolades, but for the most part fails. She attends college on scholarship, but marries young. With little ones in tow, she finishes her degrees and becomes a doctor...but not before her father passes away from cancer.
I felt this was a very well-written memoir, but it's style lacked some of the emotion necessary to really pack the punch you would expect in a story of childhood abuse and neglect. There was plenty to anger and sadden me, but I felt like the book held me at a distance if that makes sense. I honestly think it was just the author's matter-of-fact writing style. She also glosses over a few events in her life that I felt would've really added to her story, namely her sexual abuse at the hands of a family member and the affair that ended her first marriage. The sexual abuse may have been due to trying to keep her family from being too hurt by the memoir...a confidentiality issue perhaps. But the affair would've really fit into her narrative of trying to please and wanting the affection of men in her life due to the issues with her father...and I felt only mentioning it in passing left a huge chunk of her story out. She goes from being a married young doctor and saying how her marriage wasn't terrific, to going to court for her divorce while lamenting that she can't give up her affair with the guy who she was caught with. I'm wondering if her giant skip over this is due to the fact that she ended up married to the man she was having an affair with? Or was it because of her kids?

This is also a story of a woman finding her faith in God. Edie is the moral compass for her little sister and cousin, whom she is incredibly close to. She is baptized dozens of times but struggles with her faith, being both enchanted by churches and Jesus and ashamed due to her abuse and what she sees as sinful behavior. Edie goes to many different churches throughout her life until a Lutheran Church she attends with her new husband finally feels like home.

On the whole, if you find the despair of poverty-stricken Appalachia interesting, or the story of someone growing up in those conditions striving to better herself and become a doctor, you will probably enjoy this book. It would also make a good pick for those who enjoy stories of people finding their faith through adversity. Plus the author gets bonus points in my book for naming her chapters after song titles that her daddy loved. I think it's a very personal touch that shows how strongly she felt connected to him through their mutual love of country music. I have always joked that if I wrote a memoir each chapter would have to be a song, and the memories that were conjured up by it. This small touch by Edie Wadsworth personalized the story for me in a way that the writing style didn't quite. In the end I gave it a 3.5 stars, rounded up to a 4 on Goodreads.

Are you a fan of memoirs? What, in your opinion, makes one life story more compelling than another? I'd love to hear you thoughts either in the comments here or over on my Facebook page.

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