Jo McDougall brings a poet’s sensibility to memoir. Recounting five generations of Delta rice farmers, through family archives and oral histories, she traces how the clan made their way into the fabric of America, beginning with her Belgian-immigrant grandfather, a pioneer rice farmer on the Arkansas Delta at the turn of the twentieth century.
As John Grisham has for a 1950s Arkansas cotton farm, McDougall illuminates an Arkansas rice farm in the 1930s and 1940s. The Garot family’s acreage near DeWitt and the town itself provide the stage for McDougall’s wry, compelling, and layered account of the day-to-day of rice growing on the farm that her father inherited. In that setting she discovers a rich “universe of words” in the Great Depression, comes of age during World War II, and finds her way alongside “that whole quirky, compelling cast of characters” that comprised her kin.
In this conflicted, ironic, southern-but-universal account of betrayal, heartbreak, loss, and joy, “the vagaries and the grace” of the land join forces with the power of money as family bonds are both forged and dissolved.
Deeply felt, unsentimental, and often humorous, Daddy’s Money presents McDougall’s life and the lives of her relatives in the way that all our lives are eventually framed—as stories. “When all else is lost,” the author maintains, “the stories remain.”
“This many-splendored book should be interesting to anybody who can read.”
—Margaret Jones Bolsterli, Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Summer 2012
“McDougall’s prose style is beautiful; the book reads like an extended poem in places. It’s a fascinating history, a gripping family drama, a tender memoir; it’s one of our best poets writing about the things she loves and has lost.”
—C.L. Bledsoe in Hollins Critic
“McDougall manages, in the space of only 169 pages, to relate not only her moving and interesting personal story but also to bring to life a bygone era.”
“Jo McDougall’s memoir is a joy to read for the story itself, but the joy is even greater for the use to which she puts the English language; similes and metaphors abound that are rarely found in prose.”
“I devoured it. It is wonderful, absolutely wonderful. I can’t remember any other memoir that I liked so much. Read Daddy’s Money; it’s a clinic on how to write a memoir.”
—Lewis Nordan, author of Wolf Whistle and Music of the Swamp
“In clean, clear, and rivetingly precise prose, award-winning writer Jo McDougall delivers the story of her childhood and of the Arkansas Delta—farm, town, and people—that helped shape her life. But McDougall’s tale is more than her own story. Like all good memoirs, hers not only discloses the life of its author but also teaches us something about our own. Daddy’s Money is a literary achievement of the highest caliber.”
—Andrea Hollander Budy, author of House without a Dreamer, The Other Life, and Woman in the Painting