In her debut, Bailey offers a sweeping look at a life gone by, through rich portraits of the residents in her fictionalized hometown of Lakeville. Her well-written reflections reveal the idiosyncrasies and hypocrisies of human nature, and a few are notable for highlighting the tremendous human capacity for fairness and generosity. This is a nontraditional memoir, as the author focuses on the lives of others to highlight a parable that she associates with biblical scripture. Throughout the book, she writes dialogue in Southern vernacular, yet somehow sidesteps sounding hokey. Her most telling story is “A Fine One,” which begins: “Old people said there were good white people and bad white people, and good black people and bad black people.” It goes on to describe how members of her community, black and white, united to rebuild a home for African-American Earl Roy, despite the town’s segregation policy; however, they failed to assist others they deemed unworthy of assistance. Another story chronicles the missteps of Banty, the town’s bootlegger, who “was supposed to know Coffman County the way a man would learn the lines on his own face just by shaving every morning.” However, after reflecting on Banty’s life, the author weakly concludes, “Sometimes people do evil and you just have to learn to live around them.” Many readers may recoil at the book’s outmoded terms for race, or will be disappointed by how much is left unsaid. They may also wonder why the author doesn’t take sides on some clear injustices. That said, Bailey ultimately provides readers with a tenable view of how her “village” raised her. As such, the book is at once nostalgic, sad and illuminating.
An often engaging look at the daily lives of those in a thankfully bygone era.