To Bear Witness
by Hal Shearon McBride, Jr.

"I sincerely hope that my heirs... will view this effort [as] a gift."

McBride's family memoir is a tale that many Americans can relate to, especially if they were born in the American South or West prior to the Second World War. Like all memoirs, it is a blend of personal and larger histories. Many of its passages are reminiscent of Peg Bracken's A Window Over the Sink. Like Bracken, McBride lets us view his family as he remembers experiences with them. Ice cream has been a bonding element for many families for many decades, and ice cream parlors are places of nostalgia. "In [the town of] Stigler your ice cream selection was limited to vanilla, chocolate and strawberry... and the Carnation place had what seemed to be endless rows of different kinds of ice cream and sherbet."

At the beginning, McBride provides a section of "Principal Characters," as well as cross-references of maiden and married names and nicknames. The principal characters are given dates and brief descriptions. When pertinent, McBride defines the person's relationship to himself.

The book is a good personal story. As mentioned, this work seems particularly pertinent to those of the South or West, with capitals for the geography, even as McBride writes of his "Mother" and "Father." As in every family, positives and negatives comingle. His father's "rare burst of optimism" for television leads into the author's relating that his parents seemed to enable his brother's addiction to drugs by drinking and abusing pain medication with him.

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