This review appeared in the grass-roots book newspaper The Bloomsbury Review. Subscribe!
A Taste of the Sweet Apple
By: Jo Anna Holt Watson
Sarabande Books, Louisville, Ky
2004, 232 pages
Jo Anna Holt Watson’s memoir of growing up during the 1940’s is a terrific book for reading clubs and book groups. It was made into a popular television series on Kentucky Educational Television.
The story unfolds in Kentucky vernacular through the voices of the authentic characters that populated her childhood. The author shows a way of life gone by, a time when tobacco farming, horse husbandry, bourbon “sweetners” on the porch and neighbors who knew one another were her family’s status quo. The story meanders along like easy meal at the picnic table under the shade trees or a bareback ride along a creek.
Holt recounts funny stories like her fulsome Aunt Tott tugging into a Platex girdle one humid Kentucky August. We learn about her mother, Sallie Gay, who was continually dismayed that her daughter prefered riding the John Deere, learning to spit and sampling varmit stew to starched dresses and hair ribbons. Holt is kind to the memory of her dad, ‘Doc’ Holt, a country doctor prone to crazy fits and soon dead of a coronary.
The young girl’s hero is Joe Collins, the combination farm manager and body servant who takes care of ‘Doc’ when he goes wild. No need to reveal how this memoir closes; the going is the point. Let’s hope Jo Anna Holt Watson writes more books about Kentucky because this tasty-tart mix of family life is a fine start.