Engaging reflections from a perceptive storyteller.
By Gene Allen ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 24, 2023
The author, now in his nineties, reflects on his childhood in 1930s and ’40s Missouri in this memoir. He initially had no desire to return to his hometown of Neosho in 2022, as all his family, friends, and classmates had passed away. However, he felt the need to remember his childhood memories before they were lost forever. Allen’s mother, Bessie Marie Allen, was an unmarried teenager living in Mount Vernon when she became pregnant with him. When a fire destroyed the mill where his grandfather worked, the family moved to Neosho. There, his mother met and married Claude Gray, who was always searching for a better life. During his time in grammar school, Allen stayed with his grandparents in Neosho so he could attend the local schools, while his mother, stepfather, and stepsiblings moved to a nearby farm. He joined the school band and eventually formed a jazz group that played gigs at a local resort. In 1945, he became the first in his family to attend college, setting off to Oklahoma A&M. Allen went on to work in radio and TV in Oklahoma, and his memoir celebrates his Ozarks childhood. He recounts being called “Gene A” by a teacher to differentiate him from a female classmate named Jean, and he also references a decoder ring, which was featured in the 1983 comedy film A Christmas Story. He also provides more serious material, such as his grandmother’s character and a touching epilogue set at his mother’s deathbed in 1994. Allen’s style is reminiscent of humorist Jean Shepherd, and his memoir is a charmingly wry look at his formative years.
Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2023
Page Count: 106
Review Posted Online: June 27, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023