Reed’s debut memoir recalls growing up in Colorado during the mid-20th century, as portrayed in an intimate chronicle of everyday moments and small details of family life.
Reed’s childhood is set against a rich natural landscape full of bright descriptions of farm life—sunlight, fresh eggs, garden herbs and shady trees. The magnificence of these concrete details, evoked through sharp description as well as black and white photographs, creates an intimately visual effect. Through a child’s eye, Reed paints acute portraits of her mother and relatives, zooming in on the wrinkles of their brows and the undertones of their gently pursed lips. Her account is as much focused on the human interior as it is on landscape and exteriors. Although the book contains a few moments of conflict or discomfort—passive-aggressive battles between the female members of the family, for instance—these moments aren’t necessarily the ones that will pull readers into the story. Furthermore, Reed’s descriptions of her father seem one-sided compared to those of her mother, grandmother and other female relatives. In one scene, the father is asked to spank the girls; upon entering the bedroom, he instead makes them laugh, insisting that he’d rather see them laughing than crying. With such prismatic views of her female characters and their motivations, readers may wonder why the father was spared such analysis. Each chapter falls heavily into description, with little time spent building tension or meaningful conflict; therefore, readers may often feel like museum attendees viewing life behind glass. The telling remains somewhat docile, which could be a compelling feature for readers looking for a dollhouse glimpse into a time and place, rather than a story of conflicting desires or struggles.
A crisp, well-rounded portrait of a family that’s short on excitement.