With all the charm of Robert Fulghum, screenwriter Johnson spins a few yarns, shares a few vignettes and offers a variety of commendable life lessons.
Johnson was raised in rural South Carolina, a place where the difference between Baptists and Methodists matters; where people call soda â€œCo-Cola,” never Coke (or, God forbid, Pepsi); where Conway, S.C. is considered a metropolitan area. As a child he was taught to appreciate the simple things in life, and he learned the importance of hard work and community–not to mention good food. Indeed, the story is redolent with fine Southern cuisine: country ham, fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, pecan pie, banana pudding and more. Not just a paean to home cooking, Johnson has also crafted a loving ode to his parents–his dignified, selfless mother and his inquisitive, loving father–who raised him right. At the end of the day, he can barely remember the four-star restaurants he’s visited as an adult, but he has lasting memories of the simple meals he enjoyed with his family at the IHOP. Also enlightening is the author’s take-no-prisoners critique of contemporary communication technology–cell phones, caller ID, email. We may use these gizmos to facilitate relationships with our loved ones, he says, but in reality, we hide behind them. In fact, says Johnson, we now live in a throw-away culture where we casually discard whatever seems inconvenient, whether â€œStyrofoam or marriage.” Compared to the homey, comfortable world of Johnson’s childhood, today’s cell phone landscape seems bleak. He concludes the final chapter by acknowledging that we all just get through life â€œthe best damn way [we] can.” Good advice for anyone, and Johnson’s musings offer soothing companionship along the way.
As refreshingly southern and satisfying as a cool glass of iced tea.