THE BLUE BOX by Sallie Bingham


Three Lives in Letters
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The matrilineal heritage of a successful author.

After her mother's death, Bingham's sister found a blue box in the closet, a box "designed for some mysterious purpose, although it had rested undisturbed for decades." Opening the lid, Bingham (Mending: New and Selected Stories, 2011, etc.) discovered a treasure trove of papers, a diverse collection saved by her great-grandmother Sallie, her grandmother Helena and her mother, Mary. Marriage certificates, letters between two brothers enlisted in the Civil War, manuscripts for short stories and personal essays, and letters between Bingham's mother and father as they danced around the idea of marriage for four long years filled the "soft cornflower blue" box. Using the contents, Bingham melds together a timeline and history of her three maternal ancestors, allowing readers a lovely glimpse into the lifestyles of women raised in the South. Excerpts from her great-grandmother's memoir tell a story of vast change as Sallie experienced the Civil War firsthand. Parties led to suitors, which led to marriage to an Irishman who died an early death from tuberculosis. Helena's short stories weave in and out of her personal narrative of an early marriage and children and the regret she felt over the punishments she doled out to keep her children in line. Bingham's mother's entries round out the trilogy, with clips from love letters between Mary and the author’s father showing their passions and fears as they circled around their love for each other. In the modern world of emails, Skype and a decided lack of handwritten correspondence, Bingham's box of documents traverses time, offering insights into a world of women who knew their own minds long before the word feminist was ever considered.

A memoir of three generations of women rich in historical detail.

Pub Date: Aug. 12th, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-936747-78-8
Page count: 248pp
Publisher: Sarabande
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2014


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