BEAUTY BEFORE COMFORT by Allison Glock
Kirkus Star

BEAUTY BEFORE COMFORT

A Memoir

KIRKUS REVIEW

Glock debuts with a lovely, blue memoir of her maternal grandmother, a vital square peg in the poor, round hole of a hard-baked West Virginia town.

Writing with the rhythmically punctuated cadence of one semi-lost in thought as she conjures images, the author tells the story of both Aneita Jean Blair and the town of Chester, West Virginia, during the first half of the 20th century. Despite its green hills, wildflowers, and pockets of loveliness, its clean clay that drove the pottery mills, Chester had its full share of sordidness, squabbles, potter's lung, lead poisoning, backstabbing, and the grind of just making do. In this working-poor company town, Blair knew she was made of choicer stuff. She was a sparkplug who “spent at least seventy of her eighty-two years cultivating stares and making damn sure she has warranted the attention.” Dancing mattered, beauty inspired (“a woman who didn't bother to make the most of what God gave her was displaying a lack of fortitude”), baking a cake was important, but so was telling a joke and knowing how to smoke a cigarette in a bus-stop ladies’ room: style made this woman. It’s not much of a surprise that “puberty hit my grandmother like a dropped piano,” or that at 13 she attracted men like iron filings to a magnet. Her stern Scotch father was apoplectic, her mother was gentle, her brother Petey was her rock. “While her girlfriends were frantically honing in on potential mates, Aneita Jean spun the revolving door off its hinges”; again, it’s no surprise when the author warns, “sooner or later, everyone is in for a world of hurt.” Petey died young, Blair married a man who would never leave town, and her beauty paled: “it made her nastier, and it made her funnier,” qualities that drew her granddaughter to her with the same ardor as those men so many years before.

A memoir as elemental as its subject: pulsing, fetching, leaving a strong afterglow. (20 photos)

Pub Date: May 6th, 2003
ISBN: 0-375-40121-0
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2003




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