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Clear Springs: A Family Story (2000)

Clear Springs: A Family Story (2000)
3.85 of 5 Votes: 2
0060956291 (ISBN13: 9780060956295)
harper perennial
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Clear Springs: A Family Story (2000)
Clear Springs: A Family Story (2000)

About book: I think the only other thing I ever read by Bobbie Ann Mason is her short story "Shiloh." I am pretty sure I read the story while I was still in high school. I think it was in the thick anthology I won in a writing contest when I was in 10th or 11th grade. The story was about a relationship on the brink of falling apart, and it changed something inside of me, made me really feel for those two people, something that "adlut" fiction hadn't yet done for me very often.So this year I'm on a memoir kick. I decided to read Clear Springs when I saw it listed on Bookmooch, based on the strength of "Shiloh."This book is not just the story of Mason's life. It is the story of her mother's life as much as the story of Mason's own. It's also a lot the story of her paternal grandmother's life, and to a lesser extent, the story of her maternal grandmother's life too. (Her maternal grandmother died young, so there is less story to tell.) This book is about all of her family, really, her dad too and her grandpa and the people who came before them.I liked the way Mason told her story, her family's story, almost like it was fiction. The characters are well-rounded, whole, good and bad all at once. If this were fiction, I'd say these "characters" are just like real people.Mason had to do a lot of detective work to find out the stories of her ancestors. She comes from a long line of taciturn folks, so she had to do research in libraries and archives, as well as pump her mother for information, in order to get the details she so richly includes.I wish Mason had included more information on race relations. Other than a couple of mentions (a nurse in the early 1940s telling little Bobbie Ann about a cute little "colored" baby in the nursery and a cousin of her father referring to someone by using a racial epithet), reading this book could lead one to believe there were hardly any African Americans living where she grew up. Maybe that's the case, but I find it hard to believe her family living in Kentucky did not have frequent dealings with people of color. Where her well-off ancestors not quite rich enough to own slaves? Were they against owning slaves? I would have found either possibility interesting to learn about.I was also disappointed that Mason wrote very little about her adult life that was not related to her mother, father, and more distant ancestors. I guess she's saving those stories for another book. I will for sure read that book when I can get my hands on it.

Mason is from Kentucky and writes about her community and family history in Clear Springs, KY which I think is wonderful and I imagine most interesting to her kith and kin rather than to the American public at large. How this book received a New York Times Notable book distinction escapes me. It seems to speak to a smaller audience. On a positive note, however, this book could serve as inspiration for the rest of us to ask the questions of our aunts, uncles, and parents and then sit down and really listen to the stories of their past. It seems this author had to persist awhile before her mother was willing to share some of the painful events of her past which then gave her valuable insight and a new appreciation for her mother.
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Audra Wolfe
I loved this book. Western Kentucky isn't exactly an area that attracts a lot of attention from contemporary writers, but Bobby Ann Mason captures the voices and attitudes of this area perfectly. I first read it just a few years after I left Southern Indiana for the city (Philadelphia) and was feeling homesick for a certain kind of good-hearted hillbilly. The book is mostly about her grandmother, a stubborn and resourceful woman who held on through the Depression only to find herself marooned in the modern world.
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