The Education of Dixie Dupree by Donna Everhart

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“I liked her soft voice in my ear, but I had a grasp of this whole situation better than her. I envisioned me and Mama like a glass dropped on the floor, broken into millions of fragments, impossible to put back into any semblance of what we’d been, albeit not perfect to start with.”

 

Childhood is something some of us survive through a miracle but with war wounds. For Dixie Dupree, she is going to get an education no child should ever be exposed to, be so many are. Running a bit wild in Alabama with her brother AJ, wary of her mother and father’s declining marriage, Evie has sharpened her tongue on countless lies. Lies for fun, some just because, but most for survival. She may have dirty knees and be a bit of a savage at play, but what child isn’t? Family can be brutal, and for this little spitfire heroine trying to navigate the adults in hers is like swallowing poison. Why is her beautiful broken mother so sad? Why is Daddy drinking too much? Dixie seems to infuriate her mother just by being her natural self. Her mother won’t stop yearning for her  old life with her own family back in New Hampshire, and Dixie wonders why? Why did she marry Daddy knowing it meant living in Alabama if she hates it so much? The family in New Hampshire are strangers to Dixie and her brother, and it’s strange considering how much her mother claims to miss them. Why does her mother never seem to fit in with her in-laws?

As the fighting escalates everyone in town seems to know, and have their own opinion of the sort of folks her kin is. Maybe her exaggerations force her mother’s hand sometimes. Maybe she is just a bad kid but how can she not want to stir the pot with her mother ? Dixie is torn between resentment and hungry want of motherly love and comfort. When terrible things happen, she begins to wonder if she is white trash, even if the meaning is lost on her, it won’t be for long.

When her father takes off, she feels some of the blame is on her shoulders and when Uncle Ray (her mother’s flashy brother) arrives to ‘save the day’ Dixie becomes a skeleton of sorts in her own family’s closet, unearthing the buried secrets all the adults have kept. It costs so much to have a full belly and stability. When she needs help, even her brother thinks she’s full of nothing but lies, but the silence can’t last forever.  The things happening to Dixie are overlooked, and one has to wonder how the adults are culpable. From the novel’s start, they step in but not enough. Her mother’s own torturous mind forces Dixie to fight for herself, but how to do that with so much clever manipulation coming from every direction?

Broken adults are aplenty, and the brutality of the past is like a parasite for future generations. Where does it end? Dixie is a child the reader wants to rescue. It’s a heavy story, it is disturbingly hard to read. Not lighthearted and yet Dixie is sunshine anyway, the sort of kid that can’t contain her spirit- even if it puts her in the path of danger. She will have to be brave if she hopes to solve her problems, and get answers to the questions her family seems to dodge. Beautiful and wounding.

Release Date: October 25, 2016

Kensington   Fiction/Coming of Age

 

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