Official Review: Sketches of a Small Town ...circa 1940

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Official Review: Sketches of a Small Town ...circa 1940

Post by bookowlie » 05 Jan 2018, 12:47

[Following is an official review of "Sketches of a Small Town ...circa 1940" by Clifton K Meador MD.]
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3 out of 4 stars
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Sketches of a Small Town…circa 1940 by Clifton K. Meador is a memoir about growing up in Greenville, Alabama. Now living in Nashville, Mr. Meador travels back to his hometown to attend the funeral of one of his oldest friends. This causes him to reminisce about his childhood in the 1930’s and 40’s. He takes a fond yet honest look back at a place where everyone knew your name and pretty much everything else about you.

The story is more of a series of vignettes about specific friends and townspeople, customs, and ordinary events. These memories form a scrapbook of sorts that, taken as a whole, gives a vivid picture of small-town Southern life. Sundays are for church, dress clothes worn all day, and fried chicken. Teenage sex is almost non-existent, as the fear of eternal damnation is an even stronger deterrent than the possibility of an unwanted pregnancy.

Each chapter focuses on a person, event, or custom. For example, one section explains how each Greenville family is defined by three things – what gas station they go to (there are three in town), religious affiliation (Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian), and which men’s club the father belongs to (Lions, Kiwanis, Rotary). I found the gas station aspect especially intriguing, considering nowadays people are not usually loyal to a particular gas station; instead, they tend to choose based on price or a more convenient location.

The author’s casual, conversational writing style made me feel like he was speaking directly to me. The imagery is clear of a town where organized religion is deeply rooted, segregation is a given, and eccentric people seem to be the norm. However, the pace is slow and there is not much propelling the story forward. While many of the individual accounts are interesting, the book could be a little more cohesive. The author would be talking about a particular person, and then the next chapter would abruptly switch to a completely different topic (usually another person). I would have liked a bit more emphasis on the social mores or, at least, a smoother flow between chapters.

The subject of Southern racism is discussed from Mr. Meador’s perspective as a young white boy. Although blacks and whites live on different sides of town, the author initially becomes close with Billy, the son of his family’s black cook Mamie. After the neighbors start gossiping about the playmates, his mother speaks to Mamie and the boys’ friendship abruptly ends. There is also a perceptive account of the author’s encounter with a wealthy black woman while installing venetian blinds at her home.

I noticed only two errors in this otherwise well-written book. One page includes an incorrect line break followed by the next line being incorrectly indented. Also, there should not be a space after the hyphen in the word socio-economic.

I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. It is a heartwarming memoir that makes you realize how much, and sometimes how little, times have changed in small towns in the Deep South. I would recommend this story to readers who enjoy memoirs, particularly ones that focus on a specific place and historical period.

Sketches of a Small Town ...circa 1940
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Post by Komal25_ » 14 Jan 2018, 05:12

I rate this book 4 out of 5 star. Its heart warming story of true friend which recollect all the old memories..although all tbe essence of what the author trying to convey has been received properly..more often..this is a relatable story..i loved the story indeed

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Post by Mercy Bolo » 14 Jan 2018, 05:52

Sounds like a cute story. It will definitely aid in learning more about the deep south. I like that the author wrote it in a sincere and catchy manner.
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Post by BookHausJ » 14 Jan 2018, 08:56

I love this book. Hope I can find time to read this book too! Thanks for your review!

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Post by gali » 14 Jan 2018, 09:35

A memoir about growing up in Greenville and childhood in the 1930’s and 40’s? Sounds like a good read for fans of the genre. It is nice that each chapter focuses on a person, event, or custom, but too bad about the slow pace and lack of cohesiveness. I am glad you enjoyed the book despite those issues. Great review!
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Post by bookowlie » 14 Jan 2018, 10:59

Thanks for the nice feedback! Although the pacing was slow, it fit well with the descriptions of small town life. I imagine the pace was slow in real life back in the 1940's
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Post by kandscreeley » 14 Jan 2018, 12:18

Thanks for the lovely review. Most of the time vignettes seem to work better for memoirs than trying to follow a time line. I live in the South, so this one sounds interesting to me.
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Post by Cwagner25 » 14 Jan 2018, 17:33

Even the title caught my eye! I am from a small town. I loved it

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Post by pinklover » 15 Jan 2018, 00:18

Great review and stirred my childhood memory. I can relate to the book even if remembering it will make me cry. Well, life is like that. Tha most important is to cherish those precious moments.
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Post by Mjgarrison » 16 Jan 2018, 11:40

I think I would enjoy this book. I love small town stories and small town life in general. I grew up in Debeque Co. and the population when I was there was 290. It was amazing and I've always wanted to move back.

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Post by Gunnar Ohberg » 17 Jan 2018, 16:44

Seems like this book could be very interesting, but I was not quite able to gather from your review exactly what the "why" of this book is. Sure, small towns can be charming in their quaint and rustic settings, but I'm not sure what the author is trying to add to the world with the creation of this book.

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Post by mamalui » 12 Mar 2018, 04:17

Thanks for the review. A memoire about the south in the 1930-1940 sounds intriguing. I would like a go at such a book as this.
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Post by HouseOfAtticus » 12 Mar 2018, 04:34

I love memoirs. I'm going through that phase. I love the concept behind this book.

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Post by Lincolnshirelass » 12 Mar 2018, 04:36

This review made me want to read the book. It's odd, but sometimes the middle years of the 20th century can seem just as far away as the Middle Ages or Victorian age. We tend to know about the 'headline' stuff like wars, but ordinary life, both its good and bad side. is fading. I often feel I missed out by all my grandparents bar one dying either before I was born or when I was very little, as I didn't have this 'living memory' link in my own family.
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Post by Miriam Molina » 12 Mar 2018, 05:26

It would be interesting to know how Alabama looked in the 1940s - with religion, social clubs and gas stations defining relationships, and even social status. This was the time of segregation and discrimination when the terms "White" and "Colored" did not refer to laundry.

The sample is entertaining. I particularly like the part where the Methodists are seemingly torturing the Baptists with the smell of cooking fried chicken. I expect more serious stuff, especially relative to the prejudices, in the latter parts of the book.

I really hope this BOTD will be given free. Right now, it has a Kindle price of USD9.00, although the BOTD page announces it as free.

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