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Holy Roller: Growing Up in the Church of Knock Down, Drag Out; Or, How I Quit Loving a Blue-Eyed Jesus Hardcover – 1 Oct 2008
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Top customer reviews
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Wilson speaks a down-home language that--once ye've developed an ear for it--will speak to your heart, true and pure, and you'll want her to go on speaking and writing in her sweet, sassy, honest voice. She's that rare, as a person and writer.
Here's hoping you'll give us a third book, Diane Wilson, about your teenage years and early adulthood, which would surely be quite as spectacular as this one.
Drawn from memories of her childhood, the central stories concern revolve around a struggle in the family's church--a struggle that leaves an opening for the so-called Rev. Dynamite, who steps in with a call to repentence. Unfortunately, the Reverend's church is of the "Written In Heaven" variety, a phrase that usually denotes snake handling; when he is bounced out of one church, he sets up his own on the edge of a misquito-ridden swamp. At the same time, one shrimper has been killed and another has gone missing; not only does Diane become involved in the search for the killer, she also gets involved with the snake handlers too.
It may be difficult for mainstream Christians and Americans to believe that such sects exist, but they do indeed--and while Wilson doesn't attack them per se, neither does she make them seem less unsavory than they actually are, laying it on the line in no uncertain terms. As for the murder, it proves a largely unresolveable affair, but the pleasure is in the journey and the way Wilson writes it. Recommended.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
This is a book that requires you to sit back with a glass of tea, turn off your brain, and just enjoy. There aren't deep revelations here. Wilson's childhood can be described as chaotic, but filled with love. Her relationship with Chief, her paternal grandfather, is touching, and the family members, neighbors, visiting missionaries, and shrimpers that populate her memories are interesting and somewhat crazy and somehow believable.
Wilson introduces readers unfamiliar with the holy rollin' life to the wonders of speaking in tongues, rogue snake handlers, and people whose faith is unshakable even in the face of contrary "evidence." The sinners sin big and the believers look for miracles. This is a fun, touching little book, and although there are no deep secrets revealed, I enjoyed reading about Wilson's experiences in her church and community and especially within her unique family. I do have to say that I wish Anthony Perkins would pop up and let us know what he thinks of his place in this story. I think he'd be pleased.
"Holy Roller" is populated by a set of hilarious characters straight out of central casting and reflects the hardscrabble existence of blue collar folks struggling to make a living, while at the same time attempting to give meaning and purpose to their lives in the larger world and cosmos. Diane's narrative is a window into a world of Americana 50 years ago - of a little girl trying to make sense of hard working, hard loving, hard drinking and hard worshipping family and extended relatives rooted (or not) in a Biblical tradition of black/white, good/bad, salvation/damnation, world/heaven and Jesus and the Devil.
"Jesus had found my hidey-holes so I slid to the floor and laid my head flat against the picture-show chair and the tears welled from my eyes and pasted my face to its red oily surface. I could taste the salt in my mouth. Then God or Jesus or, I don't know, maybe the Holy Ghost poured me into a little heap of useless powder on the floor and warned me if I moved an inch without getting myself born again, he would blow me into a fiery furnace. The time was now. The time was now. Nine years old don't mean nothing to God."
The message contained for me in Diane Wilson's rollicking memoir of magical realism is that of inclusivity and interconnectedness. Diane has become a grown woman of fearless activism who stands up and defends the sacredness of the natural world and justice for common folk. She has taken her family's traditions of hard work, dreaming and imagination (her Grandfather dreams and speaks with spirits) and expanded this lineage to include all beings and the earth itself. We see in "Holy Roller" how she was influenced by this rich tapestry of labor, love, worship and magical thinking and how she both honors her ancestry and ultimately grows beyond it later in life. This to me is the key to this wonderful work of mysterious memoir - people cannot help but be influenced and conditioned by the matrix of the world and family they grow up in; they can see and accept that world for the beautiful quality of being that it is (warts and all), and they can honor that world by expanding and acting upon its visions.
"Holy Roller" offers us a glimpse of the foundations on which Diane Wilson's adult life of activism was built - a world of humble origins, extreme contradictions and a core of self-reliance, common sense and profound justice. Diane has been praised as one of the best Southern writers of her generation and this outstanding book is highly recommended.