A Family Album

Robert Murray Davis


Mid-Lands is simply stunning. The pace is sure; the prose is tight and calm, indeed graceful. I found myself envying the author his style and his touch for the particular. He makes himself and the places live. This is the real stuff; clean and limber, intelligent and forceful.”
—Samuel F. Pickering Jr.

“Read this book to discover the lost continent of childhood.”
Kansas City Star

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Mapping out a cosmos bounded by heaven, hell, Kansas City, and St. Louis, Robert Murray Davis looks back on his life in central Missouri in the 1940s and 1950s. As he recalls his youth and early adulthood in the town of Boonville, Davis wryly contemplates some of the sharp dichotomies by which his world was ordered: grown-ups and kids, blacks and whites, Protestants and Catholics, boys and girls, town and country, work and play, art and life.

Davis sees now that as he grew up in white, postwar mid-America, he seldom pondered the limitations that its “either/or” perspective on life imposed. Sometimes, however, intimations about the world’s complexity were too strong for him to ignore. The presence of an occasional black teammate in baseball jarred him into the realization that he knew nothing about some segments of Boonville society. The boldness of the first girl in his class to wear makeup repelled and attracted him—and confused him about sex even more than did his Catholic education. Many of Davis’s recollections involve his family and read like captions to snapshots in a family album. Anything said or done by a family member had story potential, and Davis learned at an early age that transgressions were judged less harshly if their retelling enhanced an already varied and idiosyncratic family saga. Combining memoir with social history and inspired storytelling, Mid-Lands is a reflective and entertaining evocation of regional American life.

Page count: 224 pp.
20 b&w photos
Trim size: 5.5 x 8.5


List price: $24.95

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Robert Murray Davis has written or edited two dozen books, most recently The Ornamental Hermit: People and Places of the New West and The Literature of Post-Communist Slovenia, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania.