Texas book review: Hold Autumn in Your Hand by George Sessions Perry

When looking for something to write about, I check the Texas State Historical Association’s daily history page for ideas. The Dec. 13 entry described the death of George Sessions Perry.

Who? An author? From Rockdale? He walked into a river in Connecticut in December?

Rockdale is in Central Texas. I am into Texas literature right now. And I’ve had success (if not page views) writing about anniversaries of deaths of unusual Texans.

So I learned about him. And I wrote about him. And I wondered why I hadn’t heard about this guy or his most famous novel, “Hold Autumn In Your Hand.”

I hadn’t finished writing my story before I had ordered the book on Amazon.

It’s beautiful.

Perry’s writing is compelling and effortless to read — even the slowest reader can hardly stop himself from zipping through this book to find out what happens next.

It’s not as epic as, say, “Lonesome Dove,” but in its small scope, it is every bit as Texan. Perry illuminates the life of a poor tenant farmer, letting us peer into 1940s rural Texas and see a way of living that your grandfather might have known.

As Sam Tucker, our protagonist, struggles to feed his family on a daily basis, I felt guilt about the aging cans of food in our pantry.

When one of the characters fell ill to what I recognized must have been pellagra, I wondered why the author didn’t name the illness. As it turns out, it was because our characters didn’t yet know what it was. Identifying it, and learning how to prevent it, drives the finale of the book.

I’m not going to go on and on about it. (And I don’t have any confessions to share in this review, sorry.) But I’m gonna say it should be in your Texas library.

I bought mine through a Tennessee retailer on Amazon for less than $10. And when it arrived, it was marked “Austin Public Library.” I didn’t just buy a book. I brought it home.

Overall rating: 9 out of 10.

Author’s language skills: 9 out of 10

What I learned that will most likely stick with me: The hard times behind a romanticized way of life — and the courage and determination that elevate a man.

Will it make the bookshelf? Absolutely.