A debut author recalls his family’s struggles with poverty and his alcoholic father as well as the personal relationship with God that lent him guidance in times of hardship.
Simmons’ salad days are tied to being 6 years old and growing up in his family’s eponymous “Blue House” in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, in the latter half of the 1950s, a simpler time when life’s greatest questions could be answered by his mother while she worked at her ironing board. His father’s heavy drinking and inability to hold a regular job cost the boy this innocence, leaving the family nearly destitute, constantly moving to new, small, sometimes-unfinished, sometimes-decrepit homes. With little support, Simmons’ mother was forced to weather these adversities and disappointments in order to provide for her five children, often buying groceries on never-to-be-repaid credit and once resorting to picking cotton just to give the family a Christmas celebration. Through the intervention of active pastors and a short time with a loving, devout woman named Mrs. Tompkins, the reserved Simmons was able to cultivate a relationship with God that stayed with him throughout his life, granting him the support and answers he needed in a world far more complicated than his early days in the Blue House. Highly personal, much of the memoir reads like a Christian testimonial, as Simmons shares intimate conversations he had with God, not just concerning his problematic father, but also his mother’s and siblings’ safety in the face of abuse. Over the course of his life, he received similar protections and directions as he joined the National Guard, worked for General Electric, dipped a toe in politics, and started a family of his own, often advocating to friends and family about the word of the Lord. This is no casual religious text—it’s anti-abortion and concentrates regularly on Bible passages, with each chapter accompanied by pointed “Life Lessons” by Middlebrooks, using Simmons’ experiences as opportunities to introduce guide questions for Bible study. These emphatic lessons will likely appeal to Christian audiences with similar views. They are a mix of metaphors, Proverbs, and Scripture, with a focus on self-reflection and individual responsibility, both spiritual and secular.
An account that should easily resonate with Christian readers who have experienced trauma.