Barefoot to Avalon
By David Payne
DAVID PAYNE CONFESSES, “I’d prefer to go barefoot from April to Thanksgiving.” That is not all he confesses in this touching memoir of brotherly relations, mental illness and grief. In the beginning readers learn that David’s brother George A. dies in a car crash as David watches the accident in his rearview mirror. George A. has traveled to Vermont to help his brother move back to North Carolina. This begins David’s years of depression, threatening his future as he is haunted about his past.
David Payne is the author of several novels and teaches fine arts at Queens College in Charlotte. His family roots are in Henderson, where he grew up with his younger brother. Fellow North Carolina author Ron Rash calls this book “unforgettable.” It is heartbreaking, engaging and unflinching in its raw honesty. David’s mother asked him not to write the story, but he claims he had no choice. It is cathartic in its look at how the author navigated a childhood with an alcoholic father and an adulthood with a bipolar brother.
The writing style is a mixture of flowing prose and halting regressions. Some of the sentences are so long (87 words for example) that it takes rereading them to parse the meaning.
Another North Carolina writer Lee Smith has said, “Payne has tried to get the whole universe on the head of a pin.” Perhaps that is why the way it is written is almost frantic in its attempt to tell a complicated story within one cover. It took the author eight years to complete the account with many rewrites. The end product is a powerful memoir, a tragedy written in loving detail.
The chapter describing the brother’s death is emotionally painful because of the guilt David has for not spending more time with his troubled sibling. Partly because of a divergent personal life and also because of a competition which began in childhood, David was not fully aware of the downward spiral in George A.’s mental illness. The author recalls as a child the day he held his silver, toy six shooter at his mother’s tummy when she told him a new arrival was on the way. His remorse is evident as he shares this compelling family drama.
Anyone with any family conflict and grief will gain from reading “Barefoot to Avalon.” David Payne decided, “It is time to write about George A.” I hope readers will decide it’s time to read what David Payne has written, a riveting family history.
Emerald Isle Books