Rick's Reviews > Mama Makes Up Her Mind and Other Dangers of Southern Living

Mama Makes Up Her Mind and Other Dangers of Southern Living by Bailey White
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Feb 10, 2010

really liked it

Whether written (in books such as this) or spoken (in her oral essays on NPR), I love Bailey White's voice. It is honest, original, entertaining and yet carries insight that can be quite biting at times. Better still, it is oh so southern. She is a master storyteller who manages to fit whole stories into the space of a short essay. Aspiring writers should study her opening lines and paragraphs to see how a great writer draws a reader in. How about these for opening sentences? "We should have known things were not going well when Mama found a tick doing isometrics under her panty hose." Or "Something about my mother attracts ornithologists." Or "My mother eats things she finds dead on the road." Or "I remember as a little child watching my aunt Belle's wide rump disappear into the cattails and marsh grass at the edge of a pond as she crawled on her hands and knees to meet a giant alligator face to face." Or, perhaps my favorite, "My Uncle Jimbuddy, the cabinet maker, has been cutting off pieces of his fingers for ten years now." With openings like these, how can a reader not be drawn in to find out what in the world she is talking about and how is she going to make a story of it?

Ms. White's stories are so evocative that, by the time you finish reading this slim volume, you feel you're a member of her family, whether you want to be or not, not unlike Kevin, the yankee nephew of Ms. White's aunt Eleanor -- the young man aunt Eleanor wants Ms. White to marry despite the fact that "Kevin has to lie down with with a cold rag on his head after an hour in my company, and . . .I can't seem to breathe normally when I am in the same room with Kevin, and have to go out on the porch and gulp air every ten minutes. . ." You know the dirty laundry, you know the eccentricities, and you know the hurts that are long past but not forgotten, and yet, through all of it you never lose sight of the irony and humor of it all. Moreover, you come to realize that dirty laundry, eccentricities and old hurts are very real parts of all our lives and deserve to be honored and celebrated every bit as much as the things we more typically choose to focus our attentions on.

In short, Ms. White's writing not only entertains, it also informs and uplifts, and I for one am eagerly looking forward to the next time I have the good fortune to pick up one of her books.

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Reading Progress

Started Reading
February 5, 2010 – Finished Reading
February 10, 2010 – Shelved

Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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JG (The Introverted Reader) Great review! I'm glad you liked it!

She does have a way of drawing you in with that first sentence, doesn't she? I didn't really notice it until you pointed it out.


Jessaka Another excellent review Rick. I think I read this book years ago, but it sound worth reading again.


Rick Thanks. A quick and fun read. I rarely reread books (probably because I can’t keep up with all the ones I want to read for the first time) but I would definitely make an exception in her case.


Jessaka I feel the same but shed be a quick rdad.


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