Kirkus Reviews QR Code


by J. Slater Baker

Pub Date: Aug. 19th, 2011
ISBN: 978-1461188582
Publisher: CreateSpace

A debut memoir that tracks the early life, hijinks and carefree days of a Southern mill-town boy.

Baker and his childhood friends—often nameless and always mischievous—flooded a Depression-era Atlanta suburb with their tricks. Life was “hard and money was scarce for the people who worked in the cotton mill and lived in the village.” A little shabby, but better off than many of the families of the Great Depression, the boys poach golf balls, chase baseballs, peep at girls, steal turnips and dodge ornery neighbors. They pound rats, repeat grades, roll sloppy cigarettes, covet each others’ hunting boots and slowly discover the joys and terrors of girls. And that’s all before high school starts. The scenes are self-contained and read like they’re told from a porch rocker. The forgettable anecdotes rely on slim memories and trivial details. But the best of the group relate the hard coming-of-age realities the boys uncover, usually by accident. In one, an older girl is jilted by her faraway sailor. In another, the author discovers that, though he never before had cause to think about it, his father’s job makes him unwelcome in one of Atlanta’s finer neighborhoods. Baker describes a string of teenage spare-change jobs, one of which included breaking down junk cars all the way to their seat springs. His book follows a similar track. Each chapter shows a set piece or shenanigan, like an isolated car part, in detail—from Halloween pranks to stolen rowboats and from skinny-dipping to tent-revival kissing—but no cohesive narrative emerges to crank the engine and keep the parts moving together.

A collection of warm memories; an unaffected ode to a faded, Southern way of growing up.