Beauty Before Comfort: A Memoir

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9780007172429: Beauty Before Comfort: A Memoir

A beautiful and touching memoir of Allison Glock's grandmother, this is both an extraordinary portrait of a truly remarkable woman and a engaging history of 20th century Appalachia.'"Beauty before comfort," she would say as she trimmed her brows and cinched her belts corset-tight. My grandmother is so beautiful she has never once been comfortable, a cross she bears with the subtlety of Liberace.'So writes Allison Glock at the start of her remarkable memoir, the story of her maternal grandmother, Aneita Jean Blair, and the extraordinary life she led growing up in Chester, West Virginia, a sooty factory town wedged between the unforgiving Appalachians and the Ohio River. As a girl, a young woman, and even late in life as a grandmother, Aneita Jean had a magnetism that attracted and enchanted all she came into contact with. Allison Glock takes us through the stages of her life, capturing not only the irrepressible vitality of a woman born ahead of her time, but also the eccentricities of a small-town, working-class West Virginia family, trying to survive the Great Depression and the Second World War.Aneita, blessed with 'the body of Miss America' was determined that she would escape the town that was holding her back. That she never made it, and the pattern that her life ended up taking, is just another small-town tragedy of the vanished dreams of one extraordinary person. Allison Glock writes with humour, lyricism and beauty to create a truly unforgettable portrait of a remarkable person.

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From the Back Cover:

Beauty Before Comfort is as apt a title as you could find for a memoir that is tart and poetic. Allison Glock has the kind of writing talent that packs worlds into sentences. It’s a small book but it takes in all of American small town life and all of the American Dream. With a few deft strokes Ms. Glock summons up some wonderful characters from her family history, all circling around the grandmother, Aneita Jean Blair. You won’t forget this woman and you’ll remember forever the writer’s magical skills. What a storyteller! What a book! get a cup of tea. Put out the cat. Setlle down and you’ll finish the book in one session.”
--Frank McCourt

“Allison Glock’s multi-layered memoir manages to call the reader’s attention to several things simultaneously. Its refrain is the implicit analogy between the making of pottery in pre-World War II West Virginia, and the way one’s consciousness is shaped by place, as well as by desire and destiny. Beauty, itself, is one of the book’s subjects, which is also expressed–apparently in a line of direct descent–in the author’s quite beautiful writing.”
--Ann Beattie

“Allison Glock introduces us to a real American beauty and a true original, her grandmother, Aneita Jean Blair, whose spirit was as raw and real as the rugged West Virginia mountains that bore her. Told with clarity and wit and wry humor, this is a real peek behind the tin roofed shacks, the toothless grins, the yawning pickup trucks, the world of the so called hillbillies, where we meet men and women of pride, of resounding humor and grit, who were more aware of life’s ironies and the tight spaces they lived in than any outsider could imagine. Allison Glock skillfully takes us to places we’ve never been before and may never see again. I tip my cap to her”
--James McBride

“This is a funny, tender, searing–and uniquely honest–take on one woman’s life. It’s also a portrait of a generation. Not to mention a meditation on our stories, how they echo, and what those echoes mean.”
--Colum McCann

"Beauty Before Comfort is wise and passionate, wiseass and sorrowful all at the same time–just like Aneita Jean Blair, the unforgettable heroine at its center. Her story, about a girl whose dreams are bigger than the place that holds her and the life she is destined to lead, is a familiar one and it never fails to break the heart. What’s different here, what changes everything, is the way Allison Glock tells that story. You can hear traces of the ache and beauty of rural West Virginia in her voice and she sneaks so gracefully in and out of her grandmother’s history you forget she’s writing at all. You can’t help but lose yourself in this memorable life and in this lonely, lovely place and in this remarkable book.”
--Michael Knight

“Allison Glock makes it look easy. Her memoir of her sexy, spirited grandmother (a sort of Appalachian Emma Bovary, but with a sense of humor) is a perfectly told and perfectly written American story. I can’t remember the last time I met a woman in print who became as real to me as young Aneita Jean Blair–a girl so heartbreaking, so wild, so vividly rendered into flesh that you can almost feel yourself inside her body, sashaying down her Depression-era factory-town street in her tightest dress, turning every man’s head while yearning so desperately to be transported into some glamorous other world. An unforgettable portrait.”
--Elizabeth Gilbert

From the Inside Flap:

?The first lesson [my grandmother] ever taught me was that dancing matters. . . . When she did come across men she fancied who didn?t dance, she sent them away until they did. They always learned, because my grandmother was bitingly beautiful, and that is the second lesson she taught me?that beauty inspires, all of God?s beauty, but especially hers.?

So writes Allison Glock at the start of her irresistible memoir of her maternal grandmother, Aneita Jean Blair, a woman who came of age during the Depression in a West Virginia factory town yet refused to succumb to the desperation that surrounded her. Instead, Aneita Jean rouged her cheeks and kicked up her heels and did
her best to forget the realities of life in an in-sular community where your neighbors could be
as unforgiving as the Appalachian landscape. Before it was all over, Aneita Jean would have seven marriage proposals and her share of the tragedies that befall small-town girls with bushels of suitors and bodies like Miss America, girls ?who dare to see past the dusty perimeters of their lives.?

In lyrical and often breathtaking language, Glock travels back through time, assisted by a fistful of old photos and the piercing childhood memories of her grandmother, ?a skinny, eager child with disobedient hair and bottomless
longing.? Together they guide us through the cramped dankness of the pottery plants, the dense sweetness of the holler, and into the surging promise of the Ohio River, capturing not only the irrepressible vitality of Aneita Jean Blair, but also the rich ambiance of working-class West Virginia during the twenties, the Great Depression, and World War II. Expertly written, lovingly told, Beauty Before Comfort is stirring testimony to the vanished dreams, and powerful spirit, of an extraordinary person and place.

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