Family Bible by Melissa J. Delbridge

I’ve read enough self-reflective Southern literature to last me through many Spanish Moss-drapedFamily_bible  lifetimes.  Family dysfunction seems to be its standard formula – incest, cheating spouses, crazy relatives, and the like.  Add ages-old bigotries, hardship, and food obsessions, and you get the idea.  Much of Southern lit is well written but hits these dead dogs way too many times, and I generally have to take a hiatus from reading it, and rarely now will pick up a new author – until I saw the favorable review for Family Bible, and figured that it sounded too good to miss.

Well, the reviewer didn’t lie – the author is one of the freshest voices I’ve read in recent times, with a writing style that kept me tearing through the book this past weekend.  Delbridge approaches the same subject matter Dorothy Allison mined years ago, but with way more hope and humor mixed in.  She is not hesitant to expose her parents’ flaws, but one can tell that despite her differences with them, she writes with the understanding that they tried.  Her chapter on her stepfather is especially poignant; she points out some areas of forgiveness that most writers never explore.  And 1960s and 1970s era Alabama comes wonderfully and sometimes painfully alive in these essays.  Alienation and neglect take their toil on her childhood and other kids she befriends or encounters – the final chapter alone (Girls Turned In) is enough to make you cry. 

This is a no-nonsense book, written beautifully.

(William Hicks, Information Services)

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