Memoir Review  

The River Less Run
by Tim McLaurin
Down Home Press, 2000
ISBN:  1-878086-85-5

In his second memoir, Tim McLaurin takes a physical and spiritual journey down a “road less traveled” or in his case “the river less run.”  What at first appears to be the great family trip west soon becomes an insightful trek of sacrifice by family members, battling personal demons, remembering past loves, mastering the writing muse, and facing cancer head-on. 

During his forty-fifth summer, Tim McLaurin traveled to the Rockies and Grand Canyon in a Winnebago with his mother, his brother Bruce, his brother-in-law Donnie, his daughter Meghan and his son Christopher. Mama's growing collection of rocks adds humor to the journey, while Donnie choosing to go without food so he could spend more money for a special jewelry box gift for his wife was touching.  The father/daughter and father/son insights are universal, yet fresh in delivery.

Women play a role in McLaurin’s journey of self-discovery.  Katie, the mother of his children may have still been with him, if his addiction to alcohol hadn’t strained their marriage.  The next several women that passed through his life shared his love for adventure and the outdoors, yet were not in for the long haul.  Finally, McLaurin’s personal journey to find peace and home leads him to Carol.  He has found his reward. 

Tim McLaurin teaches writing at North Carolina State University.  His methods of explaining the elements of fiction are rather unorthodox – he handles snakes in class.  And yes, he has been bitten.  However, the use of snakes to explain Southern writing is profound: 

You might say that some Southern writers are lunatics who will pick up rattlesnakes.  But, you might also say that some Southern writers have the guts to pick up serpents, and that is one reason Southern literature is held in esteem.

Surviving alcoholism is enough for most people, but McLaurin has also survived two battles with Cancer.  The epilogue of The River Less Run was written a year after he had completed the family trip, yet this afterthought is awe-inspiring in the raw intensity of McLaurin’s life lessons and desire for more. 

The River Less Run is a collection of life lessons.  I don’t usually mark books, but I found a yellow highlighter in my hand marking passages of wisdom from Tim McLaurin:

… on another water-road I gained insight into the knowledge that in this life and mortal form, I can never see beyond the curve of the river, but I can rest in the assurance that the flow will come to me, and will continue beyond me after I am gone.

 

Joyce Dixon
Southern Scribe Reviews

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