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These two vivid memoirs, in very distinct voices, recollect childhood in the context-well, in the clutches-of all-encompassing religion. Wilson's fierce determination and passion characterized her first memoir, An Unreasonable Woman, about her David vs. Goliath fight against a polluting Texas chemical company. Now she delves into her childhood in a hardscrabble Pentecostal shrimping family, surrounded by fire-and-brimstone preachers, radio evangelists, tongue-speakers, snake-handlers, and her own relatives-believing women and fallen-away men. Wilson's prose is breathtaking in its dexterity and blunt poetry, as when she recounts being conscripted as a scout to accompany her grandfather and Aunt Patty, under cover of night, to break into a game warden's riverside shack in pursuit of an incriminating gun. Wilson evokes in her rural Gulf Coast setting an exotic place at the intersection of transcendence and squalor, coated in oyster dust and the conviction that God saves (the Pentecostal believers, and no one else).
In contrast to Wilson's intensity, Turner offers a gentle, amused-and slightly bemused-recollection of his own Christian fundamentalist upbringing. His story begins on the day his four-year-old, formerly Methodist self gets affixed with a clip-on necktie and whooshed off to a new, independent Baptist church and ends, more or less, the day he receives an award at his high school graduation for being "Most Christ-like" (out of a class of four). In between, the author reflects on his pastor's overly loud sermons, his own struggle with the sin of dilly-dallying, and the foibles of growing up in a family that would, for instance, celebrate Christmas by throwing apoorly-thought-through birthday party for Jesus, featuring a cake with 33 lit candles. As reflected in his subtitle, Turner, who has written several books on Christian life, came through the experience with faith intact. Churched would have benefited from more exploration of how and why, but it is a solid, poignant, and funny memoir nonetheless. Both books are recommended for public libraries, and Wilson's is essential.
—Janet Ingraham Dwyer