The 2nd Line of the Book: “[Mom and Dad] sleep with loaded guns beside them”

Do you want to read a gorgeous memoir that:

  1. makes me jealous?
  2. is one of my favorites?
  3. starts out with a scene on the toilet?

Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, by Alexandra Fuller, is an account of her life as a colonial child growing up in Zimbabwe (Rhodesia), Malawi, and Zambia.

This book depicts an environment that threatened Alexandra and her family with danger from every possible source: war, humans, animals, illness, starvation, weather, parental neglect. Her upbringing couldn’t be farther from my own suburban Michigan 1960s upbringing.

But, here it is. Good grief, I love this book. Alexandra’s voice sounds eerily familiar to me. I think it’s that voice in my head . . . .

I learned from this memoir that I have a lot in common with people who have very little in common with me!


In January I posted “one thing I learned from this memoir” on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, but for February I plan to switch to Mondays and Thursdays. I have a lot of personal and business affairs to take care of, but I want to continue this series into February because I still have a lot more memoir books on my bookshelf!


Filed under Book Review, Books, Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Memoir, Nonfiction, Research and prep for writing, Writing

21 responses to “The 2nd Line of the Book: “[Mom and Dad] sleep with loaded guns beside them”

  1. By far one if my favorites! Lyrical and haunting, Fuller’s images are forever etched on my soul as a writer, but moreover as a human. I have read all she has written, except the oil rigger work. She has even published in nat geo! Great read reminders Luanne!

    • Luanne

      Renee, I’ve got another one of hers on the shelf and can’t wait to have at it. You’ve put this so beautifully!

  2. What a little wild thing she looks — a lion! I’m intrigued and take your recommendation to read!

    • Luanne

      Haha, yes, she does look like a lion! And what do you think that little kid in your gravatar looks like?! I predict you will love this book.

  3. Wow, what a great cover! That alone makes me want to read it.

  4. Ellen Morris Prewitt

    So glad you’re continuing the series!

  5. I am really loving this series you are doing, Always love reading what you learned!

    • Luanne

      mm, I love coming up with what I learned. It’s kind of like savoring the books all over again to think about them this way.

  6. Sounds wonderful!

    In Geneva, I had a friend who had just moved there from Zambia. His son came home crying when the teacher asked if anyone had never seen hippos in the zoo. The boy was devastated to be the only one.

    “But Hans,” his father said, “in Zambia there were hippos I outside our windows!”

    “Yes, but they weren’t in a zoo,” the boy moaned!

    • Luanne

      [Picking self up off the floor] This is absolutely hilarious!!! What a great story! Kids! I remember reading my grandmother’s copy of “Kids Say the Darnedest Things” when I was a kid, and although I was one myself, I thought kids were crazy funny.

  7. I will add this one to my list, Luanne. Thanks for the recommendation.

  8. I LOVED this memoir. And yes, loved the author’s voice. Such adventures and authenticity throughout. It’s one I would consider rereading. Her subsequent memoir, “Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness,” is lovely too and gives much more background on her mother’s mental illness. It’s her attempt to redeem her mother, who referred to the first book as “that awful book.” I think by reading both books you get to see memoir written from two different perspectives – the first, from a child’s perspective, not understanding the whys of everything that happened around her and the second detailing similar events, but with the additional backstory and understanding that comes from the adult perspective.

    • Luanne

      Dawn, I didn’t know about “Cocktail Hour”! I can’t wait to read it! Thank you so much for mentioning that, and it also makes me think of something I realized today as I was reading a memoir that is mainly narrated, rather than “shown.” There are many more ways to write a memoir (style, especially) than we were taught . . . . What you’re saying here, in so many words (IMO), is that this book doesn’t have the layered reflection as much as might be expected.

      • Yes, exactly. It’s much more from the singular perspective of the child, which I like actually because it carries with it the innocence of that perspective. However, getting a broader perspective that includes the background information that she got from research/discussions with her parents, you can tell you are getting a truer sense of the story. I think, perhaps, I preferred the first book because of that sense of innocence in it, but they are both very good.

  9. Thank you for this suggestion. I am always glad when I am reading a book and feel the writing ‘voice’ is familiar to me and how I would like to spend time with the writer! Great review and so glad this person reminds you of yourself, too!

    • Luanne

      Robin, have you ever read a book where the protagonist felt like you? Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird is another one. I love that feeling.
      I was thinking today how I’ve reaped the benefits of all the work writers have done my whole life. All that work to make me, the reader, feel so comfortable!

  10. Thisnis one reason my moved in with us.she was sleeping with a gun on her bedside table, her hubby too. Great post. May look this book up as well. JillXO

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