A backsliding evangelical Christian shares stories of a warped youth spent shedding religion for adolescent shenanigans in the 1980s.
In his affable, if somewhat tepid, debut memoir, Beaver writes about how his coming-of-age years were pre-empted by church services warning him of eternal damnation unless he devoted his life to Christian salvation. The son of a war veteran and blue-collar Southern Baptist deacon, Beaver’s yearnings for mischief began to stir in his early teens while on an evangelical camping trip. At the weeklong gathering hosted by a pastor busy channeling the power of God, the newly baptized author busied himself with the glorious distraction of a nearby pretty girl “tucked inside a terrycloth towel.” Beaver’s carnal interests were further stoked by a neighborhood friend brandishing a stack of dirty magazines and a new telescope to spy on the frequently topless woman across the street. Whether concerning his adventures in the middle school band or obsessing over scantily clad TV vixen Daisy Duke, Beaver’s anecdotes are consistently breezy and lighthearted, adding warm humor to an already ebullient sketch of his restless adolescence. The memoir’s period detail is also notable, as it describes Georgia’s rampant racial unrest and the trial of unrepentant serial killer Wayne Williams. At 16, Beaver was driving a beat-up Camaro with reckless abandon, and his primary mission was to achieve “vehicular amour” with a girl in the back seat. An ear piercing, prom night, and the loss of his virginity all promised a future of free-spirited years ahead—far away from life stuck in a stifling suburban subdivision. It also signaled a distinct divorce between the author and his staunch evangelical roots. In a contemporary, poignant closing chapter, Beaver joyously welcomes the birth of his daughter just a month after the passing of his father.
Never preachy or self-righteous, Beaver praises the exhilaration of independence while keeping faith always within reach.