Tournament of Books 2015

Special Offers see all

Enter to WIN a $100 Credit

Subscribe to
for a chance to win.
Privacy Policy

Visit our stores

    Recently Viewed clear list

    Original Essays | January 5, 2015

    Frances E. Jensen: IMG What You Don't Know about the Teenage Brain

    Things were changing in our household: the teen years had intruded into our otherwise harmonious, do-as-mom-tells-you relatively orderly world. As... Continue »

Qualifying orders ship free.
List price: $13.00
Used Trade Paper
Ships in 1 to 3 days
Add to Wishlist
available for shipping or prepaid pickup only
Available for In-store Pickup
in 7 to 12 days
Qty Store Section
21 Partner Warehouse Biography- General

This title in other editions

Somehow From a Family (01 Edition)


Somehow From a Family (01 Edition) Cover

ISBN13: 9781565123601
ISBN10: 1565123603
Condition: Student Owned
All Product Details




In July 1969, I looked a lot like Opie in the second or third season of The Andy Grif?th Show. I was a small boy with a big head. I wore blue jeans with the cuffs turned up and horizontally striped pullover shirts. I was the brother in a father- mother-brother-sister family. We lived in a four-room house at the edge of the country, at the foot of the mountains, outside a small town in North Carolina, but it could have been anywhere.

On one side of us lived Mr. and Mrs. White. They were old and rich. Their driveway was paved. Mrs. White was the president of the town garden club. When she came to visit Mama she brought her own ashtray. Mr. White was almost deaf. When he watched the news on television, it sounded like thunder in the distance. The Whites had an aluminum travel trailer in which you could see your re?ection. One summer they hitched it to their Chrysler and pulled it all the way to Alaska.

On the other side of us lived Mack and Joan. They had just graduated from college. I thought Joan was beautiful and still do. Mack had a bass boat and a three-tray tackle box in which lurked a bristling school of lures. On the other side of Mack and Joan lived Mrs. Taylor, who was old, and on the other side of Mrs. Taylor lived Mr. and Mrs. Frady, who had a ?erce dog. My sister, Shelly, and I called it the Frady dog. The Frady dog lived a long and bitter life. It did not die until well after I had a driver's license.

On the far side of the Whites lived Mr. and Mrs. John Harris; Mr. and Mrs. Burlon Harris lived beyond them. John and Burlon were ?rst cousins. John was a teacher who in the summers ?xed lawn mowers, including ours, in a building behind his house. Burlon reminded me of Mr. Greenjeans on Captain Kangaroo. He kept horses and let us play in his barn. Shelly once commandeered one of his cats and brought it home to live with us. Burlon did not mind; he asked her if she wanted another one. We rode our bicycles toward Mr. Harris's house as if pulled there by gravity. We did not ride in the other direction; the Frady dog sat in its yard and watched for us.

In July 1969, we did not have much money, but in the hierarchy of southern poor, we were the good kind, the kind you would not mind living on your road. We were clean. Our clothes were clean. My parents worked. We went to church. Easter mornings, Mama stood us in front of the yellowbell bush and took our picture. We had meat at every meal--chicken and cube steak and pork chops and ham--and plenty of milk to drink. We were not trashy. Mrs. White would not sit with her ashtray in the kitchen of trashy people. Trashy people lived in the two houses around the curve past Mr. Harris's. When Daddy drove by those houses we could see that the kids in the yard had dirty faces. They were usually jabbing at something with a stick. Shelly and I were not allowed to ride our bicycles around the curve.

I knew we were poor only because our television was black and white. It was an old Admiral, built in the 1950s, with brass knobs the size of baseballs. Its cabinet was perfectly square, a cube of steel with a painted-on mahogany grain. Hoss on Bonanza could not have picked it up by himself. It was a formidable object, but its vertical hold was shot. We gathered around it the night Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, but we could not tell what was happening. The picture ?ipped up and down. We turned off the lights in the living room so we could see better. We listened to Walter Cronkite. In the distance we could hear Mr. White's color TV rumbling. We changed the channel and listened to Huntley and Brinkley. We could hear the scratchy radio transmissions coming down out of space, but we could not see anything. Daddy got behind the TV with a ?ashlight. He said, "Is that better? Is that better?" but it never was. Mama said, "Just be thankful you've got a television."

After the Eagle had landed but before the astronauts opened the door and came out, Mack knocked on the door and asked us if we wanted to look at the moon. He was an engineer for a power company and had set up his surveyor's transit in the backyard. Daddy and Shelly and I went with him. We left Mama sitting in the living room in the blue light of the TV. She said she did not want to miss anything. The moon, as I remember it, was full, although I have since learned that it wasn't. I remember that a galaxy of lightning bugs blinked against the black pine trees that grew between our yard and that of the Whites. Mack pointed the transit at the sky. Daddy held me up so I could see. The moon inside the instrument was startlingly bright; the man in the moon was clearly visible, although the men on the moon weren't. "You can't see them or anything," Mack said, which I already knew. I said, "I know that." I wasn't stupid and did not like to be talked to as if I were. Daddy put me down. He and Mack stood for a while and talked. Daddy smoked a cigarette. In the bright yard Shelly chased lightning bugs. She did not run, but instead jumped slowly, her feet together. I realized that she was pretending to walk on the moon, pretending that she was weightless. The moon was so bright, it cast a shadow at her feet. I remember these things for sure. I am tempted to say that she was beautiful in the moonlight, and I'm sure she was, but that isn't something I remember noticing that night, only a thing I need to say now.

Eight, maybe nine months later, Shelly and I rode the bus home from school. It was a Thursday, Mama's day off, Easter time. The cherry tree in the garden separating our driveway from that of the Whites was in brilliant, full bloom. We could hear it buzzing from the road. One of us checked the mailbox. We looked up the driveway at our house. Something was wrong with it, but we couldn't tell what. Daddy was adding four rooms on to the house, and we were used to it appearing large and un?nished. We stood in the driveway and stared. Black tar paper was tacked to the outside walls of the new part, but the old part was still covered with white asbestos shingles. In the coming summer, Daddy and a crew of brick masons would ?nish transforming the house into a split-level ranch style, remarkably similar to the one in which the Bradys would live. I loved the words split-level ranch-style. To me they meant "rich."

Shelly and I spotted what was wrong at the same time. A giant television antenna had attached itself to the roof of our house. It was shiny and tall as a young tree. It looked dangerous, as if it would bite, like a praying mantis. The antenna slowly began to turn, as if it had noticed us. Shelly and I looked quickly at each other, our mouths wide open, and then back at the antenna. We sprinted up the driveway.

In the living room, on the spot occupied by the Admiral that morning, sat a magni?cent new color TV, a Zenith, with a twenty-one-inch screen. Its cabinet was made of real wood. Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. was on. I will never forget that. Gomer Pyle and Sergeant Carter were the ?rst two people I ever saw on a color television. The olive green and khaki of their uniforms was dazzling. Above them was the blue sky of California. The sky in California seemed bluer than the sky in North Carolina.

We said, "Is that ours?"

Mama said, "I'm going to kill your daddy." He had charged the TV without telling her. Two men from Sterchi's Furniture had showed up at the house that morning with the TV on a truck. They climbed onto the roof and planted the antenna.

We said, "Can we keep it?"

Mama said, "I don't know," but I noticed she had written the numbers of the stations we could get on the dial of the Channel Master, the small box which controlled the direction the antenna pointed. Mama would never have written on anything she planned on taking back to the store.

The dial of the Channel Master was marked like a compass. Channel 3 in Charlotte lay to the east; Channel 13 in Asheville lay to the west. Channel 7 in Spartanburg and Channel 4 in Greenville rested side by side below them in the south. For years these cities would mark the outside edges of the world as I knew it. Shelly reached out and turned the dial. Mama smacked her on the hand. Gomer grew fuzzy and disappeared. I said, "Mama, she broke it." When the dial stopped turning, Mama carefully turned it back to the south. Gomer reappeared, resurrected. Jim Nabors probably never looked better to anyone, in his whole life, than he did to us right then.

Mama sat us down on the couch and laid down the law. Mama always laid down the law when she was upset. We were not to touch the TV. We could not turn it on, nor could we change the channel. Under no circumstances were we to touch the Channel Master. The Channel Master was very expensive. And if we so much as looked at the knobs that controlled the color, she would whip us. It had taken her all afternoon to get the color just right.

What Our Readers Are Saying

Add a comment for a chance to win!
Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

Mary Davis, January 1, 2010 (view all comments by Mary Davis)
I picked up this book at the library for no particular reason other than I liked the title. I am not from the south, I was not raised how the author was raised, and I though I had almost no common experiences with the people in his book. Then, after 3 stories, I decided I need to buy the book so I don't cry when it has to be returned to the library. It's that good. I'm going to hunt down his fiction next.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)

Product Details

Stories That Are Mostly True
Earley, Tony
Earley, Tony
Algonquin Books
Chapel Hill, N.C.
North carolina
Mountain life
Novelists, American
Personal Memoirs
Novelists, American -- 20th century.
Family - North Carolina
Biography & Autobiography : Personal Memoirs
Edition Number:
1st ed.
Edition Description:
Trade Paperback
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
5 x 8
8.70x4.44x.61 in. .44 lbs.

Other books you might like

  1. Housekeeping Used Mass Market $3.95
  2. The Songlines
    Used Trade Paper $4.95
  3. Sam the Cat: And Other Stories... Used Trade Paper $3.95
  4. Vernon God Little
    Used Trade Paper $1.50
  5. Some Horses Used Trade Paper $7.95
  6. The Romance Reader Used Trade Paper $1.95

Related Subjects

Biography » General
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

Somehow From a Family (01 Edition) Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$8.00 In Stock
Product details 192 pages Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill - English 9781565123601 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by ,
Praise for Tony Earley

"Tony Earley has a wonderful gift for deep observation, exact and wise and often funny." (Ellen Currie, The New York Times Book Review)

"He writes his stories with care, word by word and sentence by sentence, and they are distinguished by their feeling for the specifics of lives lived in one place, and for their intelligence, and for their humor." (Charles Baxter)

"He sees beneath the surface, the calm water of everyday lives, into the hidden depths of the soul." (Lee Smith)

"What this guy writes is so true it makes sweat pop out on your forehead. Stay tuned. There's more to come." (Robert Inman)

Praise for his best-selling novel, Jim the Boy

"A radiant, knowing, pitch-perfect parable of childhood." (The New York Times)

"A dazzling first novelTThe apparent casualness of the plot masks extraordinary craft." (Newsweek)

"This exquisitely wrought storyTexhibits a clear-eyed maturity, and an understated daring, rarely seen in the most cutting-edge adult fiction." (Los Angeles Times Book Review)

"An oddly wonderful period pieceTThis little masterpiece may make you feel like flying." (The Seattle Times)

"Synopsis" by , This is the book that in hardcover won unanimous praise from reviewers, who called it "beautiful and transcendent" (The Boston Globe), a book that "measures the arc of a culture's mortality in small, personal increments" (Star Tribune, Minneapolis), is written "in a poker-faced style that always seems on the verge of exploding into manic laughter or howls of pain" (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution).

They're right. Tony Earley is a writer so good at his craft that you don't read his words so much as inhale them. His first book of nonfiction is one of those unexpected classics, like Ann Lamott's Traveling Mercies, in which a great writer rips open his/her heart and takes the reader inside for a no-holds-barred tour.

In a prose style that is deceptively simple, Earley confronts the big things-God, death, civilization, family, his own clinical depression-with wit and grace, without looking away or smirking.

  • back to top


Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at