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On the day of her 1976 high school graduation in Lewiston, Idaho, Kim Barnes decided she could no longer abide the patriarchal domination of family and church. After a ...
On the day of her 1976 high school graduation in Lewiston, Idaho, Kim Barnes decided she could no longer abide the patriarchal domination of family and church. After a disagreement with her father–a logger and fervent adherent to the Pentecostal Christian faith–she gathered her few belongings and struck out on her own. She had no skills and no funds, but she had the courage and psychological sturdiness to make her way, and to eventually survive the influence of a man whose dominance was of a different and more menacing sort. Hungry for the World is a classic story of the search for knowledge and its consequences, both dire and beautiful.
I had been waiting all my years of awareness for Christ to sound His trumpet and call me to His side. The clouds would gather, then split apart. The earth would shudder, the graves open, and we who were saved would rise, the quick and the dead, in the wink of an eye caught up, made new. But only the pure and the holy, those whose sins were forgiven, those who had been born again, whose stains had been washed away by the blood of the Lamb.
So I had been taught, and so I believed until that summer, when, amid the country's bicentennial celebrations, amid the fireworks and politicians' chatter and our preacher's dousing reminders of the fall of Rome, I turned my back on it all: my church, my family, my home, my future made bright by good grades and a nation at peace. I did this for reasons I understood then, reasons that today remain clear: my father's authoritarian discipline; the repressive doctrine of our church; my own stubbornly independent nature. This separation seems as necessary and predictable to me now as did my earlier rebellion, when, at the age of thirteen, I had thrown myself into the world for a trial run. Then, I had been a juvenile delinquent a runaway, a minor still watched, protected, and punished by close ken and proper authorities. Not so this time, when I left my father's house as an adult, a young woman still clutching her high school yearbook, on whose pages her classmates had inscribed their names and good wishes.
What path did I believe I might follow outside that door, that gateway into a world from which I'd been protected, isolated, kept hidden? Perhaps even then -1 knew that the road ahead of me would be a hard one, just as myelders had promised. Maybe I realized how little desire I had to be sheltered from any of it, for what I desired more than anything were the simple experiences of a life led outside the confinement of dogma and discipline. I wanted all that I had been denied: to go to movies, listen to rock and roll, dance with others my own age and feel the sweet exhaustion of gaiety and abandon. I wanted to be free of the guilt my every need and movement seemed to bring, the threat of my father's censure, the pall of eternal damnation.
I thought I could slide the yoke from my shoulders, like a woman laying down her pails of water. I thought I might brighten and grow stronger with the feel of freedom in my bones, remember again the child I had once been, raised not in the city but in the woods-that sacred place where my father once had lived the life of the lumberjack, where my family had been happy and whole. I did not understand what he had been running from when he left that life, nor did I see how it was that my father was still questing, and that 1, his daughter, would continue that quest, unaware of the inheritance I carried with me-the innate need I felt to control my own fate, the very trait that would both sear and save me.
In the heart of a town ticking with fever, I made a decision that would change my life in ways I could not then imagine. Over the next three years I would become a woman I hope never to be again. Yet how can I separate myself from that other, that soft girl who hardened in the fire, who came to know of her world far more than any preacher or father had dreamed to warn? She is still with me, and I with her. She is my sybil, my familiar, my reminder of all that I have escaped and come to, who I am when my need is darkest and most true.
Is that child also still with me-that girl who stands beside her mother, leaning against the pew rubbed smooth by chintz dresses and gabardine slacks, raising her hands as her parents raise theirs, praising God in a voice full of first conviction, waiting for the gift of the spirit, the gift of speaking in tongues, the gift that will give to her the language of angels? Is she there in the woods sifting through pine needles for a robin's blue egg, or balancing atop her father's feet as he Texas two-steps her across the floor, singing, "I was dancin', with my darlin' "? I would cling to him in giddy desperation as he waltzed me through the rooms in two-four time no matter the song's rhythm, my head hung back, his arms holding me tight against gravity's dizzying pull.
I want to regain that place I have lost--so much of it now gone, burned by accident or intent. There in the ashes, I might discover some remnant of who I was, some reflection of who I have become, who it is I might yet be.
Posted March 29, 2010
This is a beautifully written as well as engrossing memoir. It's haunting at times, making you wonder how all the aspects of her life will fit together in the end. It's a question many of us have of our own lives. Life takes faith and at some point we all hope or pray like her father, "Farther along, we'll understand why."Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.