Book Review: Trespasses: A Memoir by Lacy M. Johnson
Lacy grew up in Missouri to a traditional, poor farming family that never bothered to keep track of its European roots. Through interviews with her family members and a series of personal vignettes, Lacy explores what it is to be white and poor in America, the farming community, and the odd in-between Missouri inhabits as not quite southern and not quite midwestern.
The concept behind this book is excellent. The execution is discombobulated with a few gems at best, off-putting to the reader at worst.
I think what is most difficult about this book as a reader is that we jump around through time and situations with no guidance. Who is Judith? How is she related to Archie? For that matter, how is she related to the author? We have no real idea. I’m not against the jumps around the family time-line as a method in contrast to the more traditional linear timeline, but the reader needs to know who we are reading about. I honestly think an intro with a simple, straight-forward family tree would have helped immensely. Instead we have to wait until later in the book to determine who these women are that the author is speaking about. It leaves things confused.
Then there’s the narration style. It jumps from “you are so and so” to third person to first person past to first person present without any real rhyme or reason. I can appreciate the style of the individual vignettes. Individually, they are well-written. But assembled together into one single book where they are all supposed to tell a cohesive story, they are puzzling and off-putting.
The absolute strength of the work is when Lacy puts down her story-telling mantel and simply talks about the history of the terms “white trash, cracker,” what it is to grow up white trash, what it is to change class setting from poor to academic. These were interesting and relatable. I believe this is the author’s strong point and would encourage her to pursue this in future works. It is certainly an experience that she is not alone in having in her lifetime.
Overall although the concept of this memoir is strong and unique, the method of time-jumping vignettes and constantly changing narration styles make for a confusing read. I would recommend you browse a copy in a library or a bookstore if you are interested in the author’s writing style or one or two particular vignettes, but not venture beyond that.
2 out of 5 stars