. . .First, your time lapses were very good—well-placed, enabling the reader to fill in what might have been difficult personality development. You didn’t merely tell, you showed. I particularly found it helpful to know the child rearing, or lack thereof, styles of the domestic help versus the parents of Ginny. It was logical that Ginny turned out the way she did with no brake from her parents.
The device you used as a mechanism of signaling change to society at large – the shopping center was extremely well-chosen. If anything changed America more than the shopping centers located outside the city center, I don’t know what it was. It may have killed most downtowns, but it was an economic boom to a consumer-driven economy. Apron Strings’ shopping center foreshadows this dislocation wonderfully.
The race relations situation was interesting in the fact that I never heard the word, “nigger” until I was seven or eight – and it was innocent, not malignant (although how can such an ugly word be anything other than corrupting. Having never encountered the police or many other adults, I was not exposed to the mores of peoples’ use, and therefore their attitudes towards blacks. … I think we could agree that “nigger” was not a word used by polite folk, probably only by the threatened, those with the most to use – jobs or position. And it’s difficult to argue with perceptions – such as the “color bar” ; the relationship between Ethel, Ben and Carrie is very, very well conveyed. It shows the complexity of intra-racial relations, normally, lighter-skinned blacks, especially in areas that had a substantial populations of free blacks, even to this day, could taunt their darker brethren with “My granddaddy used to own your granddaddy.” You introduced another level of complexity – educational attainment. Perhaps more foreshadowing of the future in which middle class and professional blacks would leave either the country or the inner-city in order to “fit” into a prosperity-ridden suburbia.
The dysfunction that corroded the Mackey’s lives was one to which most adult children of alcoholics or substance abusers could relate. I can only imagine that having lived through the “research”, it must have been difficult to write about; however having attempted my own “bio-fic” story, I do know that the telling is not unlike a gusher once it starts to flow. How Ethel was first led into drinking was classic; you styled this well. When Early was self-rehabbing, the whole scene was depicted brilliantly by your use of senses, especially that of smell. When Ginny started to move from mood adjustment hour to memory eradication night, the reader, if at all experienced with a mother’s alcoholism, had to have sympathized with the children. Finally, when the emotional and physical manifestations of the disease began to be shown by loss of temper, slapping and crawling upstairs, the reader has to wonder, “How did these children get by?” You captured the emotions of a young girl, abandoned in a money-challenged and bourbon/gin soaked domicile marvelously.
You also showed how siblings can be practically the only support on has in an environment of divorce and alcoholism. Although Gordy’s encounter with the vile Mr. Dabney was very brave, you didn’t make anybody an out-and-out hero. This preserves the honesty and realism of the book about small children left to fend for themselves, hard enough to get by in normal circumstances, practically impossible to when slogging through the nose-high sewer of a narcissistic, drunken parent’s … spew. You resisted the heroine portrayal which would have rendered the book superficial, Mister Joe wasn’t exemplary, nor was Ethel, nor was Stuart; they were the most difficult of characters to write about, normal, everyday, and quotidian (but not dull) – this makes your work better…