Memoir Review  

Coming Home:  Life, Love, and All Things Southern
by Robert Inman
Down Home Press, 2000
ISBN:  1-878086-86-3

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 commercial.  

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 or not.   

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, “It’s gone!” 

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.

Joyce Dixon
Southern Scribe Reviews

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