NPR commentator Hannon explains why “hardship and hard living are great enhancers.”
“Nonsmokers, Yankees, professors and even men” can also be Cracker Queens, she avers, so long as they live by this dictum: “I have a choice in how I see and react to things. I can choose to accept whatever comes at me with love and gratitude. I don’t have to be oppressed—or anyone’s victim. I can live large even if I’m huddling in a hovel.” Given this premise, it’s not surprising that the author recounts a difficult youth of scant means dominated by an alcoholic, mentally ill mother and a much-loved father she saw only on weekends and holidays. Entitlement is not an issue here, and Hannon hails the power of laughter as the iron lung of life. Nonetheless, she frequently wrings the heart with her portrait of a home life ever on the verge of combusting, periodically igniting into mayhem. Crazy relatives came by the bucketful, and the author draws a careful line between complete losers (“Scooter was the nastiest waste of protoplasm that ever walked the earth”) and those whose weaknesses are evidence of their humanity. Her uncanny emotional balance allows her to extract nuggets of goodness from a mother with a lavish soul but a lot of problems, and from her Savannah, Ga., neighborhood, so crime-ridden that the local old men formed a “Geriatric Militia” armed with .45s and .38s. Life is short, so why be tasteful, she asks. Isn’t it better to be fearless, authentic and have a sense of humor? Wouldn’t you prefer love, forgiveness, thankfulness and purpose? These are not merely palliatives for Hannnon, but daily considerations.
A bracing, heart-gladdening embrace of human foibles and strangeness.