Southern Selections
~~Deep South Book Reviews~~

by Augusta Russel Scattergood

Clear Springs by Bobbie Ann Mason
(Random House, 1999)

Sitting on the porch of your mountaintop cottage or lakefront cabin, digging around in that unread stack of paperback books you’ve meant to read all winter? Stuck yet again in the airport waiting for a delayed plane to take off or for your nephew from Denver to fly in? Or maybe someone has pressed a favorite book into your hand and gushed, “You just have to read this one.”

Whatever your reasons for returning to older books, the reward is most likely worth the effort. Which is exactly how I felt when I finished Clear Springs. The book had languished unread on my bookshelf way too long, and summer was the perfect time to read Bobbie Ann Mason’s 1992 memoir about growing up in Kentucky in the 50’s and 60’s.

The prolific author of, among other things, the amazing fiction saga Feather Crowns, Shiloh and other Stories, as well as a recent biography about Elvis Presley, Bobbie Ann Mason grew up on her family’s small farm, headed to New York City after graduating from the University of Kentucky, and now has returned to her roots. Clear Springs is not only the story of the path she took to become a writer, it’s also the story of the parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles who raised her and then welcomed her back.

Bobbie Ann Mason was a bookish young girl who read Nancy Drew and Judy Bolton, played outside collecting birds’ eggs and other tiny things with her sister, joined the 4-H Club, and listened to WLAC.

“From the time I was a child, Daddy and I had been in the habit of staying up late and turning the radio up loud, staring in amazement at our huge console….The Hilltoppers, I decided by the time I was fourteen, represented everything I had ever felt and dreamed about my life. As I picked blackberries or hoed vegetables in the scorching morning sun, Hilltopper music playing in my head made me feel there was a way out—some release from the cycle of the seasons.”

When she became the National President for the Hilltoppers Fan Club, she managed to escape her small-town life for just a little while. She and her mother drove the rural highways in their little yellow Nash Rambler or their Willys Jeep from Centralia, Illinois, to Blytheville, Arkansas, from St. Louis Missouri, to Cincinnati, Ohio, to hear the Hilltoppers perform, singing their hit songs all the way.

Bobbie Ann Mason’s barefoot, outdoor summers, her crushes on rock stars, the days of Vacation Bible School and the tent revivals at night are remembered and recorded with detail and humor.

Now I know why Mason’s novels ring so true. She’s spent a lifetime taking in the details, listening to her elders, and remembering her roots.


Mississippi native Augusta Scattergood writes monthly reviews for USADS.
Readers may write her at

Enjoy more of Gusty’s USADS book reviews:
Sela Ward’s Homesick: A Memoir
Rick Bragg’s All Over But The Shoutin’
Carl Hiassen’s Hoot
Louise Shaffer’s The Three Miss Margarets
Lewis and Peacock'sThe Gift of Southern Cooking
New Stories from the South

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