Saturday, July 30, 2016

Not Just Another Memoir

You all know what I think about The Glass Castle.  It's a memoir, and it's in my top 12 books all-time.  It is a classic example of non-fiction reading like fiction.  Well, Alabama Blue, by Toni K. Pacini, feels a lot like TGC.  Here's what the back cover has to say:

From white trash mill village girl to Senior-Cinderella.
In Alabama Blue, Toni K. Pacini shares her tumultuous journey.  A girl raised-up like an invasive weed in an Alabama cotton mill village where illiteracy, bigotry, religious fanaticism, and abuse were as commonplace as fried chicken on Sunday.
From pillar to post, and coast to coast, she sought a dauntingly illusive refuge.  Toni fled a life predestined for sorrow from cold cradle to cold crypt, and she made it!  Her life needed a major re-write , and, in Alabama Blue, she rewrote the hopelessness into hope, the sorrow into joy, and left the past to rest, as she moved forward into a new tomorrow.

There really aren't many "spoilers" in a memoir.  We know going in that she had a rough time of it and came out okay.  Otherwise, how would she be able to write a memoir?  But getting from there to here must be incredibly difficult, as, fortunately, so few of us can possibly know.  I will, instead, focus on the writing and a few observations.  Here we go:

1.  We get a feel for how rough it was for Toni right at the beginning of the book.  It sets the tone for what follows.
2.  I liked the pictures that Toni sprinkles throughout the book.
3.  Norma Rae, with Sally Field, was filmed in the town that Toni's mother and grandparents lived (I know...random).
4.  Toni made 50 moves in 16 years.  2.5 years was the longest time in one place until her mid-40s!
5.  We find out early that Toni's mom told her that she tried to end her pregnancy with Toni by jabbing metal clothes hangars into herself.  She blamed Toni for her father leaving her. Can you even imagine?
6.  I definitely had moments of smiling and chills.  It wasn't only glum.
7.  There was a time in Toni's life that she lived in the Bay Area.  That's always fun for me.

Let me give you a few examples of Toni's writing:

1.  "Screams welled up in my throat like lava from a once dormant volcano, now desperate for release."
2.  "Darkness to me is not about Satan or demons.  It is about hopelessness.  Where there is no hope, there is no light.  Without hope there is no reason for tomorrow.  I had no reason."  Ouch.
3.  "You want to chase your child into the arms of an adult predator?  Ignore them.  Make them feel invisible.  Then all a predator has to do is pay a little attention.  No candy or puppies required."  Kind of makes you want to cry, doesn't it?

Clearly, Toni can write.  There are many instances where she makes the reader feel deeply for her situation.  In fact, if I didn't already know that she is now okay (she is our November RBC author), I'm not sure I could have read this memoir.  It's definitely a rough one.  But she's doing well now.  Thank goodness for that!


  1. I love memoirs and have lived in two different places in Alabama so this sounds like the perfect fit for me.

    1. If you read it, be prepared for a lot of head-shaking.