From author Good (Robert Good and His Descendants, 2011) comes a memoir about growing up in 1940s America and his personal search for religious truth.
Having lived at some 31 addresses by the age of 20, the author had a childhood marked by frequent moves, from an assortment of small towns in Arkansas to a planned community in Washington state to the humming metropolis of Portland, Oregon. The author saw a range of places throughout his formative years, as his religious father moved the family either closer to a job (security guard for a military site during World War II, for instance) or farther away from something he despised (e.g., the decadence of a city like Portland). Detailing such events as a train ride from the segregated American South to the desegregated American Northwest—the conductor even had to announce when the border had been crossed—this story becomes one about a family’s ability to cope with both geographical and national change, with a deeply personal thread, particularly with the great attention paid to the author’s father. From his refusal to tip—“he didn’t leave a tip because he didn’t believe in receiving or giving charity”—to his disgust for churches that featured piano music in their services, the author’s father emerges as a cantankerous, hardworking, difficult yet touching figure. Though distrusting of any preacher not affiliated with the Church of Christ, his father was filled at times with religious fervor; his occasionally peculiar beliefs (such as his refusal to drink Coca-Cola based on the idea that a high-ranking executive at the company might be an atheist) helped spark a religious fascination in his son. The author, who believed through most of his childhood that he would one day become a preacher, compellingly details his experiences as a child trying to grapple with thornier biblical issues and the lack of assistance he received from adults. Culminating in brief passages about his adulthood, the book amounts to a swift, readable account of one man’s experiences growing up in the early days of postwar America.
A well-balanced memoir that fits one family into a larger picture.