Debut author Anderson offers a richly textured, coming-of-age novel based on true events.
In the 1960s, Lunda Rose wants more than anything to escape her family and the narrow, suffocating backwater Tennessee mountain town of Maynard Bald in which they live. Her home life is claustrophobic and full of violence; she watches her father, a neon sign maker, knock a screen door off its hinges, put his foot through the TV, and break furniture at various points. Worse, she witnesses him disfiguring her mother’s face: “There we saw Daddy holding a piece of broken neon glass to her right temple.” Daddy exerts a powerful malevolence in this narrative, even when he mysteriously disappears from the home for months at a time. At other times, he repeatedly moves the family to different houses and different states, often in the middle of the night, abandoning furniture, pots and pans, and other personal belongings along the way. Anderson lays bare the secret, dark world that Lunda Rose and her siblings, Elda Kate and Robert Joseph, inhabit, and she perfectly captures the voice of the insightful, spunky young narrator. Lunda Rose’s reflections on her Cherokee grandmother, Lillie, further deepen the narrative: Lillie delighted in what she called her “dithyrambs,” prophetic songs that she hummed through toothless gums. Grandmother’s taste in literature—James Joyce, Henrik Ibsen, Tennessee Williams—also provides context for Anderson to explore deeper themes and ideas by evoking past masters, as Lunda Rose attempts to attain personal wisdom through reading. After Lunda Rose discovers Daddy’s awful secret—one that deeply and negatively affects everyone around him—the story loses some dramatic force. However, it continues to explore more subtle territory as the protagonist tests her ability to leave a place to which she finds herself tethered.
A compelling Southern narrative that effectively develops its engaging characters.