For the millions of American's who are born into poverty each year, our nation bleeds a darker red, white, and blue than the rest of us can fathom. The social constructs that push us from baby to student to graduate to career are disintegrated like sandcastles on a beach by the tide. Impoverished children don't see a world of possibility and grander, but a barren journey of struggle, where at any moment the rage of an alcoholic father, the threat of starvation, or whims of misfortune may pluck them off like vultures before they make it to the sea. This is the kind of existence that Douglas Wallace was born into, among seven siblings who also clamored toward adulthood under the threats of poverty. In his heartbreaking memoir, "Everything Will Be All Right", he describes the journey that took him from a family who sometimes squatted in abandoned homes to now owning a twenty-acre ranch and being the head of a successful law firm. His book relates the dual face of the American dream, which is as bright and shining as it is dark and treacherous.
Much of Wallace's memoir is told in snippets of memory that take on an episodic structure. He was born into a cycle of poverty that his parents were both from, and at first it's the kind of poverty that one can be content in. His mother collected government checks from her previous husband who died in World War II and his father worked odd jobs. But as their father descends into alcoholism the structure of the family soon collapses. Jobs become scarcer and the Wallace children begin to realize that their father is a violent monster who daily terrorizes their mother and refuses to feed his children.
In one heartbreaking recount, Wallace brings home a dog, who he affectionately calls Blackie, only to have his father pitch it over a bridge suspended forty feet above a river. When the dog finds its way back to the boy, his father throws it in the trunk and takes it away, and the boy never sees it again. Douglas Wallace brings a stark visual element to these stories that force you to inhabit the eyes of the child and see these horrible things. The result is more and more gutwrenching as the memoir progresses, but maintains the element of hope by it's title.
"Everything Will Be All Right" is the kind of breathtaking achievement that comes from watching a survivor cling to the smallest hope in a world awash with decay, and to have that hope rewarded. It is a remarkable and stunning memoir that demonstrates everything that's right with world, and everything that's wrong.