THE SONG OF SARAH by Charlene Pillow Little


Poverty and Plenty, Grit and Grace, Wit and Wisdom
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A Southern woman relates her life story with wit and candor.

“As far as genuine historical data covering the last seventy years, just about everything has been recorded already,” Little says in the prologue to her debut memoir. But, she writes, “I never find a single paragraph that mentions Sarah and her clan.” “Sarah” is one of several nicknames that Little went by during her life, and she often uses playful quips like this one to tell her story. She was born in 1937 into a childhood of poverty and hardship in Arkansas, and she narrates familiar scenarios of growing up without certain luxuries, such as piano lessons or pretty dresses, and of more unusual moments, such as substituting milk for ice cream. She traces her life from high school years spent in cotton fields to her first job working in the billing department at Southern Bell in Memphis, Tennessee. She eventually met her future husband, started a family, and moved multiple times, all around the country, while the world rapidly changed around her during the tumultuous 1960s and on through the ’70s. What’s extraordinary about Little’s work aren’t the events of her life but the fun she has talking about them. She not only narrates her past with cleverness and humor, but also smartly addresses the very process of writing a memoir: she includes funny tangents about Googling what was happening a certain year, joking with friends, and wondering where her book should start. It all works to give the memoir an inviting, conversational feel that provides it with a lovable character all its own. Readers will immediately recognize that the author is a likable, young-at-heart grandmother who hides true wisdom in her wisecracking. The book covers a lot of material, and the overall pacing might have benefited if it were a bit slimmer. For the most part, though, Little’s humor will help propel readers through some of the less memorable stories.

A memoir that has all the same qualities as its author: honesty, energy, and fun.

Pub Date: June 29th, 2011
ISBN: 978-1462014019
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: iUniverse
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2015


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