"This book is hothothot. Sizzling hot, hot as hellfire. Once again, Diane Wilson totally enthralls me with her one-of-a-kind voice and exotic material. My mouth is agape."--Janisse Ray, author of Ecology of a Cracker Childhood
“Wilson's prose is breathtaking in its dexterity and blunt poetry.”--Library Journal, starred review
In her latest, shrimper and memoirist Wilson (An Unreasonable Woman) unspools the tale of her 1950s small-town upbringing along the Gulf Coast of Texas, the daughter of third-generation shrimpers. As in her first book, Wilson writes with a stylized cadence, sans extraneous punctuation, that readers will either take to or not: "Grandma ate Fritos in a glass of buttermilk for dinner and supper and that plus giving the radio evangelist all her shrimp-heading money was driving two of her daughters batty and two not so much." Her father, "a man's man who didn't talk unnecessarily to women," and is always off shrimping, leaves her to be raised by her eccentric mother and grandmother ("the original Waste Not Want Not-er... nothing was so low that it didn't get cooked into something else"), who nevertheless imbue her with strong, transcendent values. Meanwhile, a cast of characters that includes her Pentecostal Aunt Silver ("Pentecostals had faith and faith was the absence of planning") and a snake-handling Brother Dynamite lead her through a clash between the Church of Jesus Loves You and an upstart backwoods congregation. Wilson's distinctive voice makes for some whip-smart passages, and her southern Gothic world, a colorful and unpredictable place, is fully identifiable in its commitment to vice-tight family love and responsibility to some higher power.
When an international chemical company nearly destroyed the Gulf Coast bay from which she eked out a living as a shrimper, Wilson’s pursuit of the polluters was nearly messianic in its fervor, as recorded in An Unreasonable Woman (2005). Brought up by a zealous family of Pentecostal believers, Wilson comes by her sense of moral outrage at blatant injustice naturally. Churchgoing was more than an occasional Sunday morning outing; it was a 24/7 occupation overseen by a grandmother who judged every aspect of life according to a strict and literal interpretation of the scriptures. In Wilson’s provocative memoir of life in the Texas Bible Belt of the 1950s, snake-handling preachers, fitful parishioners speaking in tongues, and money-hungry radio evangelists share equal billing with corrupt game wardens, outlaw fishermen, and less-than-devout male relatives whose “back-sliding” ways give their womenfolk immense cause for concern. Through a vividly kaleidoscopic voice that captures the intensity of fanatical religious rapture with pitch-perfect accuracy, Wilson exuberantly animates a feverish time, a frenetic place, and its fiery people.