CHINABERRY SIDEWALKS by Rodney Crowell

CHINABERRY SIDEWALKS

A Memoir
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A Grammy-winning singer/songwriter reveals the early genesis of his family, predating a marriage to Rosanne Cash (whose 2010 memoir, Composed, is a can't-miss) and the ascent to musical stardom.

Crowell’s introduction to the world of country music began early in small-town Texas, when banjo chords and Hank Williams records sweetened a childhood embittered by familial discord. Raised in a house without a bedroom of his own, the author was relegated to sleeping in the family home’s creepy front room, where he became an unwilling witness to his parents’ shouting matches and the violence borne from his father’s drinking binges. Frequently frustrated with the inescapable drama, Crowell recalls disrupting his parents’ raucous New Year’s Eve party in 1955; at age five, he frightened guests away by brandishing the rifle hidden in the hall closet. Years later, the family moved to a ramshackle, “post–World War II housing project” in central Texas that was soon decimated by Hurricane Carla. Crowell lovingly and often drolly describes a gassy grandmother, a banjo-playing grandfather, feuding uncles and Cauzette, his strident, God-fearing mother crippled with double dyslexia, epilepsy and a string of heartbreaking miscarriages. In this same tone, the author also discusses life with his boozy father and the distress of a tough childhood. His mother’s hysterically seething religious convictions and frequent nonchalant requests to fetch feminine-hygiene products tempered their embarrassing public “prizefights.” Yet these rough spots are interspersed with summery recollections of a boyhood spent chumming around and banding together with neighborhood mischief makers, and of his father’s drumming lessons, prepping him to play in his band at age 11, then on to higher heights as a budding musician. While Crowell’s narrative becomes a viscerally powerful diary of a boyhood hobbled by a dysfunctional family, his burgeoning love of music and the fruits of that talent get left behind. Could a follow-up be in the works?

An unbalanced, frequently depressive autobiography that primarily focuses on the past, leaving little room for the author’s resoundingly successful present.

Pub Date: Jan. 18th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-307-59420-4
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2010




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