I'm not sure whether to call this a memoir or a family history or what. I found this biographical book by the author of a series of some of my favorite books in childhood, The Great Brain series, to be delightful. Many of the characters we met in the kids books are here again in real life, plus a few others we haven't learned about before.
I loved the story of JD's uncle Will, his father's brother, who was a gunslinger and had made his fortune owning the best saloon in Silverlode. There were many colorful stories about him and his exploits.
I really adored the character of Mama, whose courage and convictions, and just her basic goodness are an inspiration to me. She was one of those believers who understood and lived the real gospel, the part about loving others even if they're different from us, and doing what's right even when it will get you shunned or gossiped about in the neighborhood. I just love Mama. Kids and dogs and people everywhere she went loved her, and so do I.
The exploits of TD and his great brain were briefly touched on. What is perhaps the true inspiration for the fictional story of Tom figuring out how to run Mr. Standish the mean schoolteacher out of town, Tom's brilliant plot to rid them of their Aunt Cathy (Papa's overly strict and overly literal Catholic sister who came out west to save them from their heathenism), was both funny and touching.
Overall, the book was like The Great Brain books, but just with some reality and adult complexity thrown in. There are lots of colorful characters which remind me of Faulkner characters, so real and so outlandish at the same time. They were sad and also funny: the doctor who was seriously determined to drink himself to death, who if you caught him first thing in the morning was a great doctor, but after his first few drinks would ignore any amount of mortal suffering to continue his quest.
The adopted brother, not a younger brother for JD whose parents died in a landslide, but rather a brother TD's age, a Huck Finn type whose father was an abusive and neglectful alcoholic who died young, was no less wonderful, and Mama's generosity and loving heart no less impressive than their fictional analogs.
All in all, I recommend this book to everyone, especially to those who loved The Great Brain books as kids. It's funny and sad, sweet and true and good.