For most of us, Elba, Alabama is that town that flooded in
the 1990’s and Miller Brewery bottled water for them, when they could
have really used a beer. Great
The imprint of Elba, Alabama is strong in the works of
Robert Inman. A man may have
several dogs in his life, but the love of a boy with his dog is sacred.
Boots was such a dog for Inman.
This four-legged marvel enjoyed swinging on the porch swing and
eating watermelon. Boots also
went to church and waited outside the doors, whether the family was inside
Family bonds are strong in small towns.
Inman’s grandmother, Nell Cooper, appears in several of the
essays. Her wisdom has
carried him through his life, and is worth noting for future reference.
Life offers many challenges; perhaps the greatest is
navigating I-285 around Atlanta. Fatherhood
is another challenge, which Inman addresses in an open letter to his
son-in-law as he prepares for the birth of his child.
Another great challenge is the express checkout line at the grocery
store, where Inman contemplates the multitude of lessons he has gathered
while waiting and waiting.
Inman exposes love in stories of a homesick soldier, road
weary Guitar Man, and a man who can spell finding a woman who can count.
He relates several wedding stories, including a couple that
didn’t even have ten dollars for their courthouse ceremony and the
wisdom of one of their witnesses. While staring out his window, Inman watches the hummingbirds
and other creatures in awe of God’s power and love for us.
Everyone knows a Delbert Earle, the class clown who
continues to provide knee-slapping antics throughout life.
Inman’s Delbert Earle is a real person, who has a Glamour Shot
ready for Inman to use, so Delbert can become famous.
Delbert works hard, loves his family, and is often baffled by his
friend the writer – “staring out a window can’t be honest work.”
Which brings us to the essays on writing.
Inman proves to be a disciple of the written word and the power of
stories. He relates the
memories of receiving books for Christmas, and how the books were shared
within the family. Inman’s
love for printer’s ink comes out as he remembers days at The Elba
Clipper and how that time was immortalized in Home Fires Burning.
Inman shares the lessons about the art and craft of writing that he
has discovered over the years. And
finally, he expounds on the changing times in media – addiction to The
Weather Channel, lamenting the absence too soon of Uncle Walter (Cronkite)
on the evening news, and computer crashes that leave writers crying,
In Coming Home, Inman revisits his youth with the wisdom of time. He also explores matters of the heart, fatherhood, and the craft of writing. Inman writes each essay with the same small town familiarity, which he is known for in his novels. His essays celebrate life, love, and all things Southern.
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