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Hill of Beans: Coming of Age in the Last Days of the Old South (edition 2011)

by John Snyder

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541,436,638 (3.75)None
Member:dougbq
Title:Hill of Beans: Coming of Age in the Last Days of the Old South
Authors:John Snyder
Info:Smith/Kerr Assoc (2011), Paperback, 256 pages
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Hill of Beans: Coming of Age in the Last Days of the Old South by John Snyder

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I love reading about local history. Hill of Beans is very interesting book about a young man in the rural south back in the 1930s. If this period and region are the least bit interesting to you please read this book. It is wonderful! ( )
  GypsyJon | Feb 27, 2013 |
Reason for Reading: I really enjoy this type of memoir. The story of ordinary people who lived ordinary-to-them lives, yet with the passing of time their story has become a history of a forgotten way of life. I particularly like memoirs set between the wars and set in the Southern US.

An extremely charming and readable memoir which covers the author's life from his earliest remembrances until he leaves home for college at age 17. The book is divided into three main parts which defined his life: The Mountains, The Town, The Farm. These are the places he lived in South Carolina starting off fairly well-to-do for mountain folks, his father was a surveyor/architect and ending up just on the good side of struggling to get by as they worked a farm without any machinery almost up until the author left home for higher education. Each part is simply written in vignettes with subheadings, each telling a small independent story, some are interrelated, others are one-offs but over all they have an over arching theme as they tell the story of the author's family's life from the 1930s to the 1950s and his heritage is told through stories related by the older members of the family. This is an easy book to read and one that can easily be put down and picked up again as the "vignettes" are short. However, this does make the book a slow read as one never picks up on a thread, there is no cohesive linear story. Even though the story is told chronologically, there are points when this is abandoned as a tale creeps in out of order.

A fascinating read! The story of a time when children worked in the home, in the fields, went out hunting and gathered food (berries, apples) when out playing. A time when machines were being introduced to take the load off man's work but not everyone could afford to jump on the band wagon. A time when most people still had outdoor toilet facilities. This is also the last days of the old south where racism ran rampant, was a way of life for most folks and the author doesn't sugar-coat any of his family's prejudiced language and ideologies of the times. Not everything is to be admired from the "good ol' days" but when the wheat has been separated from the chaff we are left with a nostalgic feeling for times that may have been harder on the body and labour intensive, yet were simpler in what was important: family, morals, honour, the value of hard work. Snyder writes well and has an enjoyable narrative voice. A good read! ( )
1 vote ElizaJane | Dec 15, 2012 |
This is a truly extraordinary, quite moving, and often funny memoir of growing up in the mountains of North Carolina, the town of Greenville South Carolina, then a farm in South Carolina. The author, who followed his brother to the University of Chicago, entering early after 11th Grade in 1951, writes with great perception and amazing detail about his day-to-day life, his family, schoolmates, neighbors, and acquaintances. The most interesting character is his father, who was a talented house builder, carver, artist, and just about anything else he set his mind to. Like my own Southern father, he was also a bit of an enigma, with on occasion an awful temper and curious mean streak.

The book is written in short episodes, which are recalled and written about so clearly, that you feel like you are there. Most importantly, they are written from the perspective of the boy that the author was, without obvious recourse to hindsight. This sharpens the observations about race relations, rich and poor, and other parts of growing up. At the beginning and end of the book, we learn a little more about what has happened in he intervening years. In addition, Snyder presents a revealing pair of letters his parents swapped just before they ran off to get married.

I can't recommend this book highly enough. Even if you think it doesn't sound interesting, trust me. If you have a soul, you will find it engrossing. ( )
  datrappert | Dec 2, 2012 |
I found this book annoying. It is written in first person present tense. It seemed like listening to a first-grader tell a story.

The story takes follows a young boy as he grows up in 1930s Carolinas. He lives in the country in what, for the time, was a reasonably prosperous family. His father ran construction crews and his mother raised the kids.

When it comes time for school, the boys are shipped off to Greenville to live with their unmarried aunts. What a couple of miserable old ladies! They were just difficult to like.

The writing also seemed a little stilted, if one can imagine that in a book about the rural south.

The story itself wasn't so bad. We all grew up in unique circumstances. I just didn't like the writing. ( )
  dougbq | Nov 18, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 098306220X, Paperback)

This memoir of growing up in the Old South during the Depression evokes a time gone by. While it is a loving memoir, it is populated by real people dealing with hard times, sometimes with cruelty, sometimes with violence—including a mysterious case of arson that changed John Snyder's life. Hill of Beans has been compared by publishing professionals to the seminal writers like William Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor and even Laura Ingalls Wilder.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:38:48 -0400)

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