Dimestore: A Writer’s Life

Lee Smith. Algonquin, $24.95 (224p) ISBN 978-1-61620-502-7
In her first work of nonfiction, novelist Smith (Guests on Earth) explores how deep her Appalachian roots go, in this entertaining and poignant collection of Southern memories. Growing up in the isolated coal town of Grundy, Va., Smith’s world revolved around her father’s general store (the dime store of the title). She played in the rugged mountains that surrounded her home and absorbed the rhythm and cadence of mountain music and mountain-speak. She learned the art of crafting stories from puttering around her father’s store, listening to the women who worked there gossip while she invented elaborate stories for all the dolls for sale. In “Recipe Box,” Smith remembers her mother, who, even though she lived in Grundy for most of her adult life, was considered an outsider because she came from Virginia’s Chincoteague Island. Both Smith’s parents suffered from mental illness, which loomed large in Smith’s childhood, which she touches on in “Kindly Nervous,” and also tragically affected her son, whom she pays tribute to in one of the collection’s most moving essays, “Good-bye to the Sunset Man.” It’s not all serious, though: in “Big River,” Smith recounts a momentous raft trip that she and several college friends embark on, a la Huck Finn, down the Mississippi in 1966. Throughout it all, Smith weaves in her candid observations on the changing South and how she developed into a Southern writer, spurred on by the likes of Eudora Welty. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 02/01/2016
Release date: 03/01/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 224 pages - 978-1-61620-596-6
Hardcover - 237 pages - 978-1-4104-9068-1
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