Edie Wadsworth has written her memoirs. She’s a survivor, I’ll tell ya. (I would know) If you don’t know who Edie is, she’s blogger, speaker, writer, and former medical doctor who left that life to raise her children and focus on her family and writing. Which sounds impressive enough, even before you get a picture of her upbringing in the deep poverty of the Appalachian culture in the South in a family that could have it’s very own Jerry Springer show.
To be honest, it took me awhile to get through this book, because in the beginning stories of her childhood I so related that it stirred my own memories and emotions up. I had to take a break and sort through some things of my own again before I could resume the stories of Edie’s weekends with her daddy. I read the stories and related with being hungry. With handling drunks and adults fighting, dangerous car rides with someone too drunk to be walking, let alone driving-with children in the car. Only for me it wasn’t just my weekends. There was no safe mom to come back to during the week. There was no daddy at all, just an endless stream of men, and most of them drunk. So…I had a hard time reading this book initially. However, once I came to grips with the feelings it stirred up I couldn’t stop reading, because Edie is so honest, such a mesmerizing storyteller. Besides, I was so proud of her, and by the time she reached her early teens I no longer related to her at all, because she was such a driven girl growing up. You would have to be to become a doctor, while in the throes of having your first babies. Her teenaged years of achievement in sports and with with grades in school were admirable although not at all relatable to me. I’m smiling here. It was around this point that our stories began to diverge.
In one place in the book early on, Edie describes her first encounter with school. Her Kindergarden teacher was kind, there were hot and bountiful meals served, and crayons and books read aloud- oh the delights! She fell in love with learning and her experiences were so positive, it made me realize how many other children must see their school days as a safe harbor and maybe a world of enchantment besides. It wasn’t that for me. I was so fearful and anxious as a child that it was torture. I lived purely in survival mode and didn’t enjoy anything about it except meals of course, and Mrs. Naylor, who I was blessed enough to have for not only 1st grade but also 2nd. She let me stay in from recess to be alone in class and draw, paint, and color to my heart’s content. Then she made books out of my artwork which astounded me. Her kindness helped me more than she could have ever known. I can still picture her face.
I remember bedtime stories. I sat in my young aunt’s lap and read them to her. She was illiterate. She went to school herself only sporadically and was married off at the ripe old age of 13. I’m sure my mother missed her, as she was the housekeeper, cook, and nanny while my mother was at the bar, on one side of the counter or the other. She worked there and at the end of her shifts she took off her apron and hopped to the other side of the bar.
I remember going to school with my aunt before she was married. And holding her hand, hitchhiking, going to make drug deals and meeting up with her friends with alcohol to sit around in abandoned buildings drinking and laughing and crying and acting like fools. Nobody was taking care of those kids- and they were the ones taking care of me. So, yes, I relate with the early on stories in All The Pretty Things. I suppose at first it felt like too much but then I was glad I picked it up again. Once I was brave enough to start reading it once more, it became a source of reminders of my own journey and that is very often healing. I laughed as I recalled stories of driving cars way too young because the owners of them were too drunk to fit the key in the ignition. I drove pick-up trucks with rowdy drunks next to me long before I went to the driver’s education classes at school. I examined some of my own painful and hilarious stories and thanked Jesus for keeping me and my younger sister alive and for saving me from my own self.
For people like us, the author and people like me, on the other end of all that white trash nonsense we grew up with, meeting Jesus was the literal saving grace that redeemed us and recycled all that garbage. Edie goes on to write about her marriages, and mistakes. Her navigation of life with a broken internal compass is relatable. Anyone who grew up with any amount of neglect and or abuse is going to have some core beliefs about themselves that are not one bit helpful. The fact that she is who she is today is beauty in action. I read her story, and I say “Jesus did that”. I should know. Edie’s honesty about her infatuation with church kept her somewhat on the straight and narrow while growing up, even while it put distance between her and her family. I related to that too, and just as vividly related to finding no lasting help there and then finally finding Jesus.
All The Pretty Things is a story of true redemption. I loved the book, even if I didn’t always love the memories it stirred up for me. The evidence of the grace of Christ is all over Edie’s memoirs and that’s worth reading. And remembering.
Jesus saves ya’ll.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in order to write an unbiased written review of it.