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Review: Chinaberry Sidewalks

Grammy winner Rodney Crowell takes a stark look at his gnarled family tree

Despite the fire and brimstone, Crowell writes, the preacher was in fact bored — which he revealed to Rodney by winking at him during one memorable service. The moment was transformative: “In the wink of an eye,” Crowell recalls, “I saw a compassionate, tolerant, and non-judgmental God of love and great humor. My own faith was planted as a seed that morning, and there are days its fruit sustains me still.”

He also writes powerfully about his father’s demise — which, though wrenching, ended on an almost blessed note. “Your daddy looks like he did the day I married him,” Cauzette said just after James died (she would live on for another several years).

By embracing his role as “a witness to and harvester of my family’s past,” Crowell writes, he has been able to “realize that life’s basic impulse — given half a chance, even in death — is to heal itself.” In Chinaberry Sidewalks, his healing has produced a memoir that is, in its own strange way, life-affirming indeed.

Writer and musician Dave Shiflett posts his own music at Daveshiflett.com.

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