Sins of the 7th Sister
A Memoir of the Gothic South
April 1, 2003
". . . a rare treat to . . . find yourself enthralled by it from the very first page."
". . . disappointing when Curtiss decides to condense the next 30-plus years into less than one hundred pages."
". . . a charming story, all the more appealing because it is true."
It is a rare treat to open a book and find yourself enthralled by it from the very first page. Huston Curtiss gives his readers this gift in his first book, Sins of the 7th Sister. Subtitled “A Memoir of the Gothic South,” the book is Curtiss’s own story of growing up on a farm in depression-era West Virginia. It contains an assortment of colorful characters, including his irrepressible mother, Billy-Pearl, who insists on saving her part of the world, including most of the people in it, much to the chagrin of her young son. One of his mother’s missions involves Stanley, a boy from the orphanage who years ago killed his abusive father and was castrated for it; Billy takes him home and under her wing. Stanley becomes a formative presence in Curtiss’s life, giving the seven-year-old Huston the physical affection that the boy feels deprived of from his mother and the rest of his family.
Although the book jacket describes itself as “a story of castration, rape, suicide, murder, and madness,” it is also the account of a young boy growing up on a farm and all the details of that life. From hog butchering to the making of apple butter, Huston conveys what it was like to live and work in a time passed. The minutiae, along with drama, are what make this book riveting. So it’s a little disappointing when, after spending almost three hundred pages to detail eight months, Curtiss decides to condense the next 30-plus years into less than one hundred pages. After being lulled into the meandering style of the first two-thirds of the book, the author jolts us through the next 30 years of Curtiss’s life, with barely a snippet of information about what happened to the people we have come to know and care for.
That said, it is a wonderful tale that leaves the reader wanting to sit down with the author and ask him about all the real-life characters, to discover those untold details. Sins of the 7th Sister is a charming story, all the more appealing because it is true.
Reviewer: Lesley Williams
Categorised in: Book Reviews
This post was written by Editorial Staff