After attending the funeral of John Sherling, one of his two best boyhood friends, Meador realized that the story of his youth in Greenville, Alabama, might be interesting to his descendants, and to general readers. Growing up, he says, he was unaware that some of the people he knew—cross-dressing Juan Carlos, intellectually challenged “Frog,” mother-daughter prostitute team Louise and Pearl, fearless prankster Leon, and his two best friends, Sherling and Charles Chambliss—would be unique characters anywhere, let alone in tiny Greenville, where people were categorized by religion, gas brand preference and men’s-club membership. Some aspects of Greenville life, however, were not at all unique for a Southern town, including the acceptance of racial segregation and the contrast between city and country life. Meador tells the unvarnished truth about his adolescence; he doesn’t try to inflict 21st century sensibilities on his youth, nor does he attempt to prove that his beliefs were significantly different from those of other Alabamians of the time. His younger self’s burgeoning teenage libido also receives extensive attention. At times, however, the book’s remembrances seem emotionally detached, whether due to the passage of years or a deliberate choice. For example, the book mentions the loss of the author’s mother to colon cancer merely as background to other stories, and as the reason he and his father began taking meals at Mrs. Riley’s boardinghouse, when her death was likely a huge, watershed moment in the family’s life. To his credit, however, Meador resists giving in to the nostalgic conceit that life was better when he was young.
A solid, if not emotionally insightful, memoir for fans of stories of the American South, the Great Depression and the homefront of World War II.