Oh, I could tell you stories that would darken the sky and stop the blood,"" writes Allison in this rich memoir, which originated as a performance piece. And indeed, she tells such stories--of her beautiful mother, abandoned as a pregnant teenager by the boy she loved; of the rape of a little girl; of a family history of ""death and murder, grief and denial, rage and ugliness."" As a girl, Allison writes, she told stories in order to escape. Here she tells stories to revisit what she had earlier tried to escape--home, family and family secrets, the hard, burdensome womanhood of the poor in her hometown, Greenville, S.C. But Allison, who courted both literary acclaim and notoriety with her first novel, Bastard out of Carolina (1992), tells her sad tales with a lyricism that lifts them into another realm. ""Let me tell you a story"" is her refrain. And we do, we let her tell away.