Book Review: Allison Moorer "Blood: A Memoir"

Allison Moorer’s 'Blood' memoir is a gripping tale of two children, Moorer and her singer-songwriter sister Shelby Lynne, on the front lines of a domestic war.
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Allison Moorer Blood- A Memoir Da Capo Press

Allison Moorer
Blood: A Memoir
Da Capo Press (Hardcover)

5 stars

By Mike Greenblatt

The murder-suicide at the heart of singer-songwriter Allison Moorer’s Blood memoir is a gripping reminder of what can happen when an abused wife/mother loves her abuser too much and keeps letting his apologies suffice. In this case, the two children, Moorer and her singer-songwriter sister Shelby Lynne, were on the front lines of a domestic war. Vernon Franklin Moorer was a failed musician and alcoholic who took out his bitterness and rage on his family. The instances of physical and verbal abuse litter these pages like the detritus of their shattered lives in an Alabama trailer park.

It’s a wonder these sisters survived intact and went on to have successful careers, although Moorer writes of a lifelong “angry restlessness” within Shelby’s soul. “She is a singer’s singer and brilliant,” the author writes of her sister, “a true star — but all she sees is failure…she is ashamed that she is not a bigger commercial success. She calls herself a loser. She loses sight of her accomplishments.” Shelby, for the record, has recorded 14 albums, every single one of them totally brilliant. Allison has recorded 11 of the most beautiful and profound Americana albums you’re ever likely to hear, the last of which, Blood, is a companion CD to this book.

“Where can I go to get safe?”

“Please God, don’t let Daddy hurt Mama.”

It’s a heart-breaking book, a gut-wrenching read. Allison writes prose that will tear at your innards, just like her first hit single, “A Soft Place To Fall.” Her father beat Shelby, threw the family puppy against a wall breaking its leg, constantly hit and kicked his wife, and called her a pig and a worm in front of the children. It’s hard to read when your eyes well up with tears during the section she calls “Some things I would say to him now if I had the chance.”

In August of 1986, the foul deed was done, leaving both sisters orphans. The father shoots the mother direct in the chest at close range at 5:00am in the driveway before blowing his own head off. The shots wake Allison, 14, up and she goes outside.

“Mama?”

She wonders all these years later if her dying mother ever heard her. Shelby, 18, as always, takes charge.

“Go back in the house.”

Music saved them both. Their combined talent and pure artistry is bigger than their tragedy.

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