Fairy Tales & Horror Stories

A Memoir
by: Merlyn Fuller

Why does someone write a memoir?

That question bubbled to the top of my mind as I began reading this sometimes self-indulgent, sometimes profound, sometimes bawdy, sometimes heartfelt, but always entertaining book.

Why does someone feel that their life is the stuff of a book? Well, it has been said that all of us has one good book in us: our life story. Perhaps that is the motivation. In looking back, from a sufficient distance, we see how our life unfolded and realize that is the stuff of human life, and hence, inherently interesting.

At least Fuller - no, I'd rather call her Merlyn since I feel as though I now know her - didn't break my cardinal rule for memoir, or auto-biographies: she is old enough to have a perspective, and to have reflected on her joys and sorrows. Unlike some not-to-be-named President who wrote his when he was but 33. It's hard for me to take a memoir seriously - unless the writer has lived a truly unusual youth - until there is some degree of experience, chances taken, lessons learned, and above all, distance from the life so that the stories and recollections can be culled and woven into the fabric of a somewhat objectively observed life.

Merlyn has indeed lived her life - and with an appetite and enthusiasm we should all be so fortunate to share. She is not cautious, but embraces the adventure, and she carries us along with us in an easy, friends-talking-over-coffee - or perhaps a glass of wine? - style.

The book is organized into vignettes. While every vignette doesn't end with a reflection, many of them do. And many of them share with us a lesson learned, and kernel of "truth" to be chewed upon. But Merlyn does not preach. She shares. It makes the book work.

Her life both resonates and fascinates, particularly if you are "of a certain age." Some of us can remember a wondrous childhood of much freedom and vivid imaginations, something we lament that children today perhaps lack. The freedom to disappear for large portions of the day, and be on our own to explore the world around us. We might spend an entire day rapt in the world of bugs under a log, or constructing a "fort" out of scraps of this and that. Nobody set up a play-date for us, or created a program. We simply ran off while dad was at work and mom was running the household.

This is Merlyn's childhood - though perhaps hers is even more interesting as her parents opted to live the life of part-time farmers, with a vegetable garden and country acres, a wringer washer and a mangle (and yes, I do remember those, though my mom didn't have them, the lady around the corner did). She had "chores," she went to church, she encountered good people and bad, odd ones and even dangerous ones. The lurker who preyed upon unsuspecting children - I think now that there was one in every neighborhood; perhaps we didn't discuss them so much, and perhaps we were more likely to just scream and run? But Merlyn's life includes a violation of more significant proportions - I am intrigued by her girlfriend's comment that "Yeah, well, we all have one of those stories." I think I've said those very words! Still, with all the terrors and failures of her child- and young person-hood, it was magical, misunderstood, terrible, and wonderful.

Merlyn's mother is clearly one of the strong influences on the growing girl as she experiments with all sorts of philosophical, religious, and spiritual inquiries, from Ouija boards to Catholicism to  Edgar Cayce. Again, I can identify as while we were Catholic growing up and I, like Merlyn, attended a parochial school (with uniforms and Bass Wejuns!), our maternal grandmother was something of a psychic who visited Lilydale, and our parents were born investigators, though perhaps not as trusting as Merlyn's mom - and I still want to attend a Tent Revival just to try it!

All of this prepares Merlyn for - for what? She grows up, gets married, and has babies. Granted, she does it in a more amazing way than most of us - she gets on a Greyhound and leaves for Texas fresh out of high school.

So you get the picture. This is not an ordinary young woman!

It is approximately here in her narrative, perhaps half way through, the Merlyn shifts gears: up until now she has captivated the reader with the story of shared memories - the imagination, the freedom, the parents who are both loving and distant, the nuns and the crazy neighbors. It is rather like reading an exaggerated version of the life story of many of us. She has carried us along on a wave of nostalgia, poking into the dark and cob-webbed barn; the yearly landmarks of holidays that are watched for with barely contained excitement; the time spent alone in our imaginary friends.

Then she goes off on the adventure that is pure Merlyn, and now she grabs us and throws us in the back seat and drives! Her adventures are more notable for her take on them than necessarily the degree of strangeness. She does not live her life standing to the side - she dives in, she feels, experiences, bathes in it - and she lets us "swim" with her.

A unifying force in Merlyn's life is music.  But before this passion is allowed to flourish into a vocation, Merlyn's adventures are all over the map. As I noted, she is a woman of passion and enthusiasm and she is fearless (though I'm not sure she'd agree with that last characteristic!). When the time comes to end her first marriage and start anew, she doesn't dwell on it; she does suffer and question, but even in the vignettes devoted to this - the changes, the pain, the upset - she has a positive quality about her introspection that keeps you reading. Some writers, particularly of memoirs, bring us into their pain to such a degree that it is hard to keep reading. Not so Merlyn. She skillfully brings us out the other side with a promise that it will be better when we get there.

I won't reiterate any more of her story. It's worth the read for yourself.


It's also available at amazon.com
and at performances by Merry Mischief, the local folk duo comprised of Merlyn and her husband, Wayne "Harry" Fuller.


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