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Dimestore: A Writer's Life

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  2,488 ratings  ·  414 reviews
For the inimitable Lee Smith, place is paramount. For forty-five years, her fiction has lived and breathed with the rhythms and people of the Appalachian South. But never before has she written her own story.

Set deep in the mountains of Virginia, the Grundy of Lee Smith’s youth was a place of coal miners, tent revivals, mountain music, drive-in theaters, and her daddy’s d
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Hardcover, 202 pages
Published March 22nd 2016 by Algonquin Books
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3.83  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,488 ratings  ·  414 reviews


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Diane S ☔
Oct 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Growing up in Grundy, Virginia a coal town and spending much of her life in Chapel Hill, Lee Smith is Southern to the core. I am sure that those raised in the South will identify with much that I didn't, phrases, foods, manners and traditions. But, I loved this memoir, love this author and her books and you don't have to be Southern to mourn the changes in your home town, or in my case neighborhood, the stores that are gone, places that meant much in your youth no longer there. Family and the im ...more
Cheri
4.5 Stars

“Whether we are writing fiction or nonfiction, journaling or writing for publication, writing itself is an inherently therapeutic activity. Simply to line up words one after another upon a page is to create some order where it did not exist, to give a recognizable shape to the chaos of our lives.”

My exposure to this particular part of Southwestern Virginia, where Lee Smith grew up, is limited mostly to the years my brother went to college close by, but I’ve been there before and since.
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Jessaka
Mar 09, 2019 rated it liked it
“I’m still here but my town isn’t.”

I have never read anything before by Lee Smith, but this book, due to its title, struck my interest, so now I will try her other books.

The title “Dimestore” reminded me of the dime stores where I grew up in Paso Robles, CA. And the above quote made me think of how my own town had changed, and of how I hate those changes.

The first change to Paso Robles that I remember was when I was in 8th grade. The high school burned down. The kids cheered, and perhaps I ha
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Howard
Lee Smith begins her collection of fifteen autobiographical essays this way:

“I was born in a rugged ring of mountains in southwest Virginia – mountains so high, so straight up and down, that the sun didn’t even hit our yard until about eleven o’clock.”

I certainly wasn’t born into that world. Just a few miles from my birth place in the middle of the country the elevation is only 230 feet above sea level. The landscape is so flat that the most useless thing in the world is a vehicle’s emergency br
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Diane Barnes
Oct 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
It's always a joy to get a glimpse inside a favorite author's life and thoughts. Lee Smith has been a writer that I follow, reading and loving her fiction for many years. This small book of essays takes us to Grundy, VA, a small coal mining mountain town, where Lee was a much loved only child, running wild with friends and cousins, surrounded by relatives and a community who took care of one another. Of course, she also received "lady lessons" from an Aunt.
"The South runs on denial. We learn de
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Sara
The Autobiography of Lee Smith, author of Fair and Tender Ladies, On Agate Hill, and The Last Girls, is so beautifully written and heartfelt that you feel she is a neighbor or a friend, or at the least a person you would feel comfortable sharing a coke and hotdog with.

Born in 1944 in Grundy, Virginia, Lee infuses her writing with a sense of place and persons who have all but vanished from the face of the earth. This is Appalachia at its core, coal-mining country, where family live across the str
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Wyndy
Sep 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars. This is a wonderful collection of autobiographical essays by the queen of Appalachian fiction, Lee Smith. If you want to experience the soul of the region, and of Smith’s life, consider this book. Smith grew up in the coal mining town of Grundy located in southwest Virginia near the Kentucky border, the only child of older parents (her father owned the town’s Ben Franklin dimestore and her mother was a former teacher) who were both “kindly nervous,” each being hospitalized for severe ...more
Ed
Jan 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Honest, sincere collection of essays is a wonderful read.
George
Mar 31, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
LYRICAL. AN ENTERTAINING READ.

“Whether we are writing fiction or nonfiction, journaling or writing for publication, writing itself is an inherently therapeutic activity. Simply to line up words one after another upon a page is to create some order where it did not exist, to give a recognizable shape to the chaos of our lives.” (Kindle Locations 1933-1935)

I quite enjoyed reading Lee Smith’s autobiographical essays in Dimestore: A Writer’s Life. She offers a close-up and very personal look at App
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Nancy
Sep 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dimestore: A Writer's Life by Lee Smith, author of Oral History, Fair and Tender Ladies, and On Agate Hill s a beautiful memoir consisting of essays on aspects of her life.

Lee paints a warm and nostalgic portrait of growing up in a loving, supportive, yet dysfunctional family in Gundy, Virginia. Her father ran the dimestore in town. A later visit to the city reveals the changes that occurred over the years. Grundy, on the flood plain, had been literally moved to high ground. Wal-Mart was invite
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Jeanette
Jun 25, 2016 rated it liked it
This is divided into more than a dozen essay chapters of strongly memoir based topics.

It's a fast read and gives a delectable and specific feel and locale identity to her Grundy. The small mountain town in Western Virginia that was her father's home place and her first place.

Some of the chapters I liked and enjoyed much more than others. Absolutely loved the one in which she highlights her Mother's recipe box. And the Miss Daisy one was great too.

It would have been four stars for me except for
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Nancy Peacock
Apr 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Lee Smith mentored me when I was first learning how to write fiction. With DIMESTORE she is mentoring me still, showing me how to live as a writer. Smith recognizes story when she hears it, be it in an MFA program or coming from a woman wearing a man's hat and dropping papers and pens all over the place when she enters class late.

Once I'd successfully written a novel, I became in the public's eye, a writer. It can actually be a heavy mantle to carry, and difficult to navigate. With wit and char
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Lesa
Apr 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
The cadence of the heart is pure poetry when Southern writers such as Rick Bragg and Lee Smith write of home. Lee Smith tells her story, her life story, her writing story, in the beautifully written collection of essays, Dimestore: A Writer's Life.

Born in a town surrounded by mountains in southwest Virginia, Grundy, Lee Smith celebrates the town where her father owned the dimestore, and her mother raised her to leave. While her mother, who was "not from around here", no matter how long she lived
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Virginia McGee Butler
Mar 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
There’s something about Appalachia that brings out tales. Lee Smith grew up in a mining town in the Appalachian Mountains in southwest Virginia where she says a lie was called a “story” with little distinction between them. That idea traveled south along the ridges of those mountains right down to where I grew up in its foothills in north Mississippi. I, too, heard when the possibility arose that I might be in trouble, “Now, don’t you be telling me a story.”

Dimestore, Lee’s book recommended by a
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Arlene
Mar 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biographies
I started this book this morning as we drove away from Gulf Shores and by the time we got home at one pm, I had finished it. I rarely give books five stars but this was really a four and a half. I have always enjoyed reading Lee Smith's novels and her book, Dimestore, gives the reader
a glimpse of her life growing up in Grundy, Virginia and how it influenced her writing. She also shares the sadness of the loss of her son, Josh to a family demon, mental illness. She wrote Agate Hill as therapy f
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Barb
Feb 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Perhaps you need to be of a certain age (boomer) and have lived in the South to truly appreciate how wonderful Lee Smith's fifteen essays that comprise "Dimestore - A Writer's Life". Lyrical storytelling with familiar nuggets sprinkled throughout made for a lovely afternoon totally immersed in her life. How excited I was to find that we shared the love of many of the same titles. All families have their own particular dysfunctions, thus her honesty about hers gave the book a depth that I appreci ...more
Gail Cooke
Apr 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing

As all of my book borrowing friends will readily attest I’m an unrepentant page crimper - I simply fold over the top corner of a page that holds something I want to reread. Needless to say my copy of Dimestore by Lee Smith is probably the most page crimped book to be found. It is a treasure filled with warmth, honesty, understanding and humor.

In this her first work of nonfiction Smith tells us of growing up in the small coal-mining town of Grundy, Virginia. It was a place where everyone knew e
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Rita Quillen
Jul 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Lee Smith's memoir DIMESTORE is a delight that anyone would enjoy. I've had the pleasure of knowing Lee as a friend and a role model for many years, and I knew quite a bit about her childhood and life and had heard some of these stories before, but the telling here is so much more complete and detailed, still in that wonderful Lee voice that I can hear in my head whenever I read her work.

I loved the sections about growing up in the coal town of Grundy, VA the best; they brought a flood of nostal
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Melora
Jul 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays
A wonderful collection of autobiographical essays, mostly related to being a writer. There were only two that fell a bit flat for me (“On Lou's Porch” and “Lightning Storm”), but they were short ones, and the rest ranged from “good” to “excellent” (generally improving as the book went along). Part of my enjoyment derived from the fact that Smith is writing about the part of the south where I've lived for the past ten years now – I knew just what she was talking about when she told about how at l ...more
Susan Karsten
Apr 17, 2016 rated it it was ok
I feel that I was deceived and lead to this book under false pretenses. Lured by reviews that said this book was about her childhood and her father's dimestore...NOT. I can count on probably one hand the teeny tidbits about the store.

Is this book a case of a published author capitalizing on her publishability? I tend to think so. These chapters are, unless I miss my guess, a re-packaging of essays, excerpts, and columns this author has written on a variety of very loosely related topics.

Don't bo
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Becki
Jan 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Being familiar with the area and culture described in this book, I found it interesting to think about how things have changed since Smith's childhood and how they have stayed the same. Her stories of growing up in a small Virginia coal-mining town are spot-on to the way of life that is still prevalent in many of those places. Through life's ups and downs, she has hung on to the lessons learned all those years ago, and they have helped her become the writer she is today.
Alicia
I don't know why this came across by TBR list, but I'm bummed that it took up space for a few days because I could not connect. I didn't enjoy the writing, the name dropping, or the stories themselves though I would be interested in the setting and the time period, just not the narrator unfortunately. I didn't even want to stick with it and skim it.
Marian
Sep 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a collection of essays on writing. In one of the essays, Lee Smith recommends a book by Katharine Butler Hathaway, saying it is a book every writer should read. I think Dimestore: A Writer's Life is a book every writer should read. It's fascinating and inspiring.
Hannah
Feb 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have read all of Lee Smith's novels. I am fascinated with the ways in which she tells a story. "Dimestore: A Writer's Life" is her memoir, and in it she does a beautiful job of telling how she became a writer. I couldn't put it down until I'd finished, and then I was sad when I did. I absolutely love books where the central character becomes my new best friend, and that is what Lee has done here.
Belle
May 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Oh my gosh! How could I have missed Lee Smith all my life so far?

First, there are tons of recommendations for southern reading in here. My Amazon cart is now full.

Second, this woman is witty, charming and wise. I wish I could sit on her porch with her. The way she describes the life of a writer is essentially that we are all writers. She gives so many examples of her adult students’ writing that is simple, sweet and plain all at the same time being profound and almost ethereal. I was tempted t
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Corinne
Jul 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book on several levels. Lee's childhood and hometown stories are very relatable and similar to most of us born during the baby boom. Many had me in tears reminiscing about times past and an aching for happier times. But time marches on and the realties of our imperfect lives are fodder for her stories that I so enjoy. So now I know where the inspiration comes from, her very own life. And if you think that a good writer has an extra dose of glitter dust tossed onto them to c ...more
Catherine Read
Feb 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book in so many ways and for so many reasons. I've read nearly everything Lee Smith has ever written and I love her writing. This collection of essays about her life and her writing are just as beautifully written as any of her novels and short stories.

Lee Smith was born and raised in Grundy, Virginia, a small town in southwest Virginia up in the Appalachian mountains. So many of the details of her childhood are so familiar to me because they mirror so many of my own. She attended H
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Anita
Dec 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Okay, I'll admit it. An autobiography gets an automatic ten points from me just because. However, this one earned it. I had a quiet appreciation as Lee Smith spoke in that honest, mature voice that expresses real life in a way that says, "This is it; live; don't waste it..." At least, that's what I heard.

Writing was integral from the beginning. Her path of self-discovery included childhood reading and stories, and later, college; but it was teaching and witnessing the passionate, unorthodox writ
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Heather
Feb 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaway-win
** Thank you to Algonquin Books for providing this advance reading copy of this book through the Goodreads First Reads Giveaway program **
This memoir in the form of short stories gives the reader a glimpse of author Lee Smith’s life from growing up in the small town of Grundy, Virginia set deep in the Appalachian Mountains, through her adult life mostly spent in and around the college town of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. If you are interested in knowing more about the author Lee Smith, I recomme
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Candice
Sep 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was a charming book and also had some good advice about the approach to writing and how it helped her in life. Her descriptions of childhood in the southern coal mining mountains I would have thought would have been a lot more different than the childhood I had in the Midwest during the same period, but in fact there were a lot of similarities despite the cultural gap and the patterns that arise from a specific geographic location. I found it interesting that American life can be pretty hom ...more
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Growing up in the Appalachian mountains of southwestern Virginia, nine-year-old Lee Smith was already writing--and selling, for a nickel apiece--stories about her neighbors in the coal boomtown of Grundy and the nearby isolated "hollers." Since 1968, she has published eleven novels, as well as three collections of short stories, and has received many writing awards.

The sense of place infusing her
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“Finally I had made that necessary imaginative leap - which is a real necessity, since most of us writers can't be out there living like crazy all the time. These days, very few are the writers whose book jackets list things like bush pilot, big game hunter, or exotic dancer. No, more often we are English teachers. We have children, we have mortgages, we have bills to pay. So we have to stop writing strictly about what we know, which is what they always told us to do in creative writing classes. Instead, we have to write about what we can learn, and what we can imagine, and thus we come to experience that great pleasure Anne Tyler noted when somebody asked her why she writes, and she answered, "I write because I want more than one life.” 1 likes
“In the parlance of today, our family was dysfunctional (is any family not?) I would never become an angel, or even a saint. Instead I would grow up wild, marry young, and settle down. We'd have two boys, forming our own dysfunctional family. We'd do the best we could. Then we'd divorce, and I'd feel "kindly nervous" myself. I'd remarry. I'd try like crazy. (We all do, don't we? We try like crazy.) My new husband and I would form our new, blended dysfunctional family.” 0 likes
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