In 1969, Dixie Dupree is eleven years old and already an expert liar. Sometimes the lies are for her mama, Evie’s sake—to explain away a bruise brought on by her quick-as-lightning temper. And sometimes the lies are to spite Evie, who longs to leave her unhappy marriage in Perry County, Alabama, and return to her beloved New Hampshire. But for Dixie and her brother, Alabama is home, a place of pine-scented breezes and hot, languid afternoons.
Though Dixie is learning that the family she once believed was happy has deep fractures, even her vivid imagination couldn’t concoct the events about to unfold. Dixie records everything in her diary—her parents’ fights, her father’s drinking and his unexplained departure, and the arrival of Uncle Ray. Only when Dixie desperately needs help and is met with disbelief does she realize how much damage her past lies have done. But she has courage and a spirit that may yet prevail, forcing secrets into the open and allowing her to forgive and become whole again.
The voice of Dixie just grabbed me and drew me into this story. Had I known how the story was going to unfold, maybe I would never have read this book, so I am very pleased I went in cold. The Education of Dixie Dupree is the debut novel of Donna Everhart, yet it felt like to me that it was coming from a very experienced writer, it was so well written.
Dixie is an inquisitive, strong personality and I was often horrified by the relationship she had with her mother. My heart went out to Dixie as she endured the many questions she had in her mind and the love and wonderings she had about her father. Her mother is a very unhappy woman and it could be said much of what happens, happens because of this unhappiness. Her secrets though are dark and as yet have not seen enough light. When something isn’t healed, then ugly things can result.
Dixie keeps a diary and in it she writes her truths. Later this diary will become very important. However what she doesn’t know is her mother kept a diary like she did too, and eventually it will answer some of the questions Dixie has.
Most of the story is set in Alabama and the setting – the heat, the red dust and the love of the land comes through from Dixie. What happens to Dixie is dark and abusive. This is not an easy book to read, but Dixie’s powerful voice just mesmerised me and kept me reading. And there is justice and hope and resilience. Perhaps the final revelation was a little ‘too tidy’, and I will be interested to see what others think about that.