Beautifully written meditations on love, death, family and redemption from the celebrated songwriter.
As the title alludes, this is very much a “portrait of the artist” memoir, in which the author shows not the slightest interest in dishing dirt or settling scores. A country hitmaker who has received considerable critical acclaim, Cash is also a previously published author of the short-story collection Bodies of Water (1996). Yet for some she will always be foremost the daughter of Johnny Cash. Here she leaves no question that the father she knew was quite different than the legend portrayed in the 2005 film, Walk the Line, which she calls “an egregious oversimplification of our family's private pain, writ large and Hollywood-style.” By contrast, intimate vignettes writ small fill this account, which illuminates her close, complicated relationships with both her mother and her father—whom she remembers as “strange, dark, and intensely distracted” when she was the young daughter of a dissolving marriage, yet a pillar of support and inspiration through the majority of her life. The tension at the center of both her career and her memoir is her realization that “I wanted success, certainly, but I wanted it without the merciless exposure of a public life.” Unflinchingly honest and incisive on matters she chooses to address, Cash provides little detail about her marriage to and divorce from country artist Rodney Crowell, whose collaboration with her proved pivotal in the careers of both. A generosity of spirit informs her portraits of friends from decades past, fellow musicians, husband and collaborator John Leventhal and the children who have enriched the life of their mother. Despite the spate of recent deaths she has mourned, and the traumas of brain surgery, miscarriage and a mysterious loss of voice that she recounts in these pages, warmth and humor characterize the resilience of the author's spirit.
An excellent memoir that ends on an encouraging note: “More to come.”