We're having above average temperatures in Michigan this month and that leaves me daydreaming about time at the beach. How we love our Lake Michigan shoreline. It's common for friends to ask me for a book recommendation they could read at the beach. They usually want a lighter read. A literary chick flick. Well, one of the books I'd recommend this summer isn't a light one necessarily, but it is a darned good story.
Running on Red Dog Road is a memoir of my childhood, mostly set in 1940s East Beckley, West Virginia. It is a living history of the Appalachia I lived in and loved as a child. How it looked and sounded and tasted.
That's the whole story in a nutshell, because sometimes we don't need to complicate things. First, readers learn what "red dog" means:
Red dog is burned out trash coal. If the coal had too much slate, it was piled in a slag heap and burned. The coal burned up, but the slate didn't. The heat turned it every shade of red and orange and lavender you could imagine.
The author, Drema Hall Berkheimer, then introduces us to the main characters in her growing up years. Her best friend, Sissy. Her grandpa, a Pentecostal pastor. Her grandma, mother, aunt and two siblings. Finally, her best friend Sissy, who was a Methodist. Their lifestyle often seemed more relaxed than her family's did. Here's what Berkheimer thought about that:
She was a Methodist, and they didn't care one way or the other if you gambled all night. No matter how I ran it around in my head, I couldn't make it come out fair that I'd go to Hell and she wouldn't for the very same sin. It came to me than that some things never would be fair. I'd decided to be a Methodist when I grew up.
This book told about a specific region of the United States but also about a different time for Christianity. We read about her memories of the church services, from the unique insight of a child's perspective. Also about a faith healer who lived in her community. Story after story. True to the opening description, we learn a lot about the looks, sounds and tastes of her childhood.
Every meal we sat down together - breakfast at seven, dinner at noon, and supper at six, folding our white flour-sack napkins and placed them on our chairs after each meal.
This book is a truly delightful read. You'll laugh out loud, shake your head and learn a thing or two while reading it.
I received a copy of "Running on Red Dog Road: And Other Perils of an Appalachian Childhood" written by Drema Hall Berkheimer, from NetGalley for the purpose of generating a review. Italicized quotes are the from the book. The opinions expressed here are my own.