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Sean Dietrich

Forfatter af Stars of Alabama

17+ Værker 353 Medlemmer 43 Anmeldelser


Værker af Sean Dietrich

Stars of Alabama (2019) 98 eksemplarer, 10 anmeldelser
The Incredible Winston Browne (2021) 75 eksemplarer, 7 anmeldelser
Kinfolk (2023) 28 eksemplarer, 9 anmeldelser
Sean of the South: Volume 1 (2015) 13 eksemplarer, 1 anmeldelse
The Other Side of the Bay (2015) 9 eksemplarer
Lyla (2015) 7 eksemplarer
Sean of the South: Whistling Dixie (2015) 7 eksemplarer, 1 anmeldelse
Sean of the South (Volume 2) (2015) 5 eksemplarer
Fervor (2005) 1 eksemplar

Associated Works

Hansel and Gretel: The Graphic Novel (Graphic Spin) (2008) — Illustrator — 102 eksemplarer, 4 anmeldelser

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Kanonisk navn
Dietrich, Sean



Sean Dietrich’s newest novel, The Incredible Winston Browne (Thomas Nelson 2021) reads as if it is a gift from Dietrich to his readers. It is singularly beautiful.

Rich with Dietrich’s trademark everyman eloquence and his profound insights into the human condition, Winston Browne tells the story of a dying man who achieves peace with his life, a run-away girl who finds a family, a wayward teen boy who discovers his place in the world, and a church-lady spinster who blossoms from prim to sassy and feels good about it. Set in a small panhandle Florida town, the book avoids sentimentality and is never trite, transcending those potential traps by the sheer magic of Dietrich’s words and his story-telling.

It’s not a plot spoiler to mention that Winston Browne is dying because the very first sentence in the book is “Winston Browne knew he was dying.” Winston is not an old man, but a long-time habit with Lucky Strike cigarettes has claimed him. The book does not shy away from the emotional aspects of the process, but it does ease through his physical decline with a gentler focus. Winston has been the sheriff of Moab, Florida—the small town where he grew up—since he returned there after serving in WWII, and he decides to spend his last days in the town doing what he’s always done for as long as he can.

Winston Browne, as the book’s name implies, is the main character, but he gets upstaged in many a chapter by his best friend since childhood, Jimmy, and Jimmy’s long-time fiancée Eleanor. She had been Jimmy’s “steady girl” since they were teenagers and he proposed when they were twenty-three but never set a date. Now at fifty-two, Eleanor recognizes that Jimmy “wasn’t interested in becoming much more than her glorified buddy.”

When Jimmy forgets to take Eleanor to a church social, Winston—who has just learned he is dying—steps in to escort her. He and Eleanor dance. And dance. And spark something between them that triggers Eleanor’s metamorphosis. Theirs becomes an unusual love story, tender and genuine yet without much physical passion except a kiss here and there. It turns even more poignant as she becomes one of Winston’s primary caregivers. But Winston and Eleanor’s closeness also sparks discord between Winston and his best friend since Jimmy sees the whole thing as Winston stealing his girl.

The town, Moab, no doubt is based upon the small Florida city where Dietrich lives:

Moab was located off U.S. Route 29, sitting on the grayish-brown water of the Escambia River, which ran downward through south Alabama, cutting into West Florida before spilling into the Gulf of Mexico. The town was covered in the last of summer’s greenery, golden rod, and purple asters. All storefronts, with their proud little awnings, tried to be so much more than there were.

Set in 1955, in some ways Moab seems like a little Mayberry town with Winston in the iconic Andy Griffith role of sheriff. The town is portrayed as largely clean and wholesome, its citizens fine people, and even the town drunk is a good fellow, well-liked and tolerated. The worst the town folks are guilty of is gossip, which they do in plenitude, and the one time that Winston becomes enraged, it is due to hurtful gossip.

Winston, like Sheriff Andy Taylor, is a good-hearted, wise, level-headed, and benevolent person who lives up to the “protect and serve” motto of law enforcement. He is more social worker than law enforcement, coaching the local baseball team, delivering food to the poor and shut-ins, guiding a would-be delinquent into a good job, and teaching an awkward teenager how to dance. In a moment of danger, he feels like an imposter in wearing his guns, something he admits he has not done in two years. And if Winston seems a bit like Sheriff Taylor, his deputy Tommy has a couple of borderline Barney Fife moments.

When evil comes, it does not come from within the town but from outside the community. Members of a cult arrive to re-capture a child that escaped its clutches. The girl, Jesse, is strong, spunky, and a tomboy. She will not be recaptured easily. She arrives in the town on the run with a stray cat in tow. She steps down from a truck whose rider has given her a lift without molesting her in any way. When Jimmy confronts the runaway, she clocks him good on the head with a can of carrots. However, before long she is essentially adopted by Moab in general and Winston and Eleanor specifically—even as the sheriff looks for info on any runaways from nearby communities.

The cult’s attempts to kidnap Jesse and kill her creates suspense and tension—and action, giving Deputy Tommy his moment of glory. But the tenderness with which Eleanor takes to the child and fills both a mother and grandmother role is the far more affecting story line.

Winston is ever the wise chronicler, and his reflections grace the narrative with many an apt insight. In one scene where the sheriff and some of the Little Leaguers are delivering groceries to a former teacher with dementia, Winston observes how “the boys were so carefree.” Boyhood, he reflects, “carried such a lightness with it. Children … were much wiser than adults in many ways. Life was happening right now, right in this moment. There was no tomorrow, and yesterday was a photograph. And that was the essence of boyhood.”

Another youth in the story, Buzz, becomes a kind of son to Winston. Buzz is a school dropout who lives in poverty with his crippled mother and functions at the edge of delinquency. After Buzz is arrested, Winston takes him on to redeem and guide, having recognized he is a good kid in a bad situation.

Buzz’s character arc—like Eleanor’s—is profound. But it does not come easy:

Buzz had never felt as much like a child as he did right now. A baby wearing man’s clothing. A kid without a father tries so hard to be a man before his body agrees with his efforts. By the time puberty was finished, Buzz would be eighty inside. That’s how it worked. But right now he felt so young. He wanted someone to squeeze him and tell him it was only a bad dream.

Buzz, Jesse, Winton and Jimmy are united in their fanatism about baseball. The town mostly cheers the Brooklyn Dodgers and everybody’s favorite is Jackie Robinson. The 1955 World Series is highlighted in the story, and the team and Robinson will have a personal part to play in the plot before the Incredible Winston Browne is over.

Dietrick, whose unabashed love for dogs is apparent to the multitude of fans of his “Sean of the South” blog, offers a red hound named Huck as a kind of motif for adaptability and transcendence. Huck appears at first as the town drunk’s unnamed dog but when he decides he is Winston’s dog, the sheriff names him Huck after Huckleberry Finn.

The Incredible Winston Browne is a wonderful book, a tale of such gentleness and love that it cannot help but be uplifting even in the face of loss and death. The writing is consistently crisp with the occasional splash of dry wit and hints of poetry, and the plotting is a fresh return to the warmth of stories like those our grandparents might have told us on the porches on a summer night.

Dietrick is the author of twelve other books, including Stars of Alabama and a recent memoir, Will the Circle be Unbroken. He is also a columnist and podcast host known for his commentary on life in the American South. His work has appeared in national and regional publications, and he is the creator of the Sean of the South Podcast.
… (mere)
ClaireMatturro | 6 andre anmeldelser | Jun 6, 2024 |
Personal, warm, heart-rendering in spots, funny in others, and nearly perfectly written word by word, Will the Circle Be Unbroken (Zondervan 2020) is classic Sean Dietrich. Which is to say, this memoir is good, very good—excellent, in fact. It has the power, the poignancy and emotional impact of Angela’s Ashes, yet the music in the language is classically Southern. It is not always easy to read—nor was Angela’s Ashes—but just when it all seems too sad or too harsh, Dietrich offers up humor or insight or a bold dose of pure, sweet love. Sometimes he gets in a quick jab of wry humor in a one-liner; sometimes he builds the tale to a sweet funny climax; often he is thoughtful; always he is compassionate. Through it all, Dietrich’s honesty and talent shine.

For the thousands of regular readers and fans of Dietrich’s daily blog, “Sean of the South,” the basic story line of his life revealed in this memoir won’t offer too many surprises. Dietrich over the six years of writing his blog has shared the main events of his life. As revealed in the blogs, there was much he had to transcend, and his essays on that process—that glorious transcendence—helped make him a star. His memoir offers more insight, details, and richness than the blogs, and reading this book is like being invited personally into the life of this impressive man.

Dietrich was only twelve when his father died. The first line of the book grabs the reader with its directness: “The day before my father shot himself, I saw a blue heron.” In that opening chapter, titled “Camp Creek,” Dietrich compares his father to a heron, and observes: “He was a welder, an ironworker, and birdlike qualities came in handy on the iron. He could crawl upon the skeletons of skyscrapers like a tightrope walker.”

The book does not shy away from the brutishness of Dietrich’s father, yet in writing about it, the author mostly refrains from harsh judgment or condemnation. He addresses the sporadic abuse with a degree of openness in which his pain—physical and emotional—is evident. “I remember the first time my father hit me. …He smacked me only once. I stumbled backwards, it stunned me. I can still hear the sound.”

The author was only five at the time his father first hit him, and while Dietrich writes that he did not remember what he had done to provoke his father, he does recall “that after he hit me, his face changed. He wore a look of horror. …Then…he started crying.”

In passages like that, Dietrich evinces a kind of mercy and grace which he also attributes to his mother. Of her, Dietrich writes that she extended mercy to his father “even when he did not deserve it. Even though he used it against her.”

Dietrich is open in his praise of his mother: “My mother has always believed in second chances. And it is here where her power lies. I would not be the person I am if my mother had not been so forgiving.” But as he makes clear, his mother was no weakling and stood to protect him against his father’s rages. He recounts one event in which Dietrich as a boy lost control of their Ford tractor and damaged the grill. His father began to hit him, and Dietrich, terrified, ran to the house. He described his father in that moment as “not himself. He was another man. I don’t know who, but it wasn’t him. This man had big eyes and clenched teeth.”

Dietrich outran his father and hid behind his mother, who stood with wide legs and hands balled into fists, as she told her husband that if he touched their son again, it would be the last thing he ever did. The father backed down, and later that night, Dietrich found him lying under the dented tractor, “bawling, with his face pressed into a work blanket.”

The book is organized into chapters which read like short stories, and they follow Dietrich’s life in a loose kind of chronological order. He opens his chapters with strong initial sentences that capture something real about his life that he is so generously sharing. “In my family, there was no real difference between fried chicken and religion,” begins the second chapter, “Paper Plates.” Or, “You don’t know you’re getting older until it’s too late. It happens without your permission,” the opening in “Six Old Strings,” chapter 9.

While coming to terms with his father, who is both hero and villain, is a dominant factor in the memoir, it is the women who save Sean Dietrich, and it is to the women he dedicates his book: “To my mother, my wife, my sister, and Ellie Mae. The women in my life.” It’s worth noting that Ellie Mae is a dog, a gift to him from his wife Jamie, and Ellie Mae is described as “nothing but legs, ears, and stink” when she first came to live with Dietrich and his wife.

Perhaps the most beautiful and tender portions of this memoir are the chapters about Jamie—how he met her, their wedding, the abiding strength and love between them. These passages save the book from being just another abused-child-finds-peace memoir. They back the book away from sadness, and fairly explode with positive, optimistic, adoring love.

Dietrich’s memory of meeting Jamie as she ate (and ate) fried chicken is fun and rather endearing. But his chapter on the eleven years it took him to get a college degree contains perhaps the best tribute to Jamie. These long eleven years included “squelching, torturous, demonic, heart-twisting, cruel and unusual, hellish years of math.” After Dietrich explains that “when someone starts talking about numbers, all I hear are mushy sounds that don’t mean much.” Jamie is quite different:

My wife, however, is a math genius. She tutored me on Monday and Wednesday nights and muscled me through each math course. It was a miracle we stayed married because teaching me requires an almost biblical amount of patience. Often, my wife would attempt to explain basic algebraic concepts only to realize her husband’s numerical IQ was the same as that of a residential water heater.

All in all, Dietrich’s memoir is uplifting and joyful despite the harsh events he sometimes discusses. The brutal aspects are essential to the truth. That he reveals them with tenderness, grace and love is a testament to this special man and his special book.
… (mere)
ClaireMatturro | 3 andre anmeldelser | Jun 6, 2024 |
I received this book from Zondervan Books via Bookish First. This review is my own opinion.
There were quite a few times reading this book when I burst into laughter; many more times that I snickered and chuckled throughout. I had never heard of Sean Dietrich before winning this book (he’s also known as Sean of the South) but will definitely be picking up some of this other books to read.
You Are My Sunshine is Sean’s retelling of how he and his wife, Jamie (aka the Math Teacher), came to the decision to do “something BIG” in Jamie’s words after receiving a health scare. Sean reluctantly agreed to do the “something BIG” she wanted to do. That “something” was to ride the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) and the C&O Canal Trail during the pandemic. By agreeing to do this, it was almost his undoing.
Told from Sean’s perspective as he rode a 3-wheeled trike that he thinks Jamie “bought from Toys R ‘Us” (because he’s afraid of bikes…and clowns…and snakes), it details their adventures and mishaps on the GAP and the C&O Trail. He talks about meeting Sandy along the way and their conversations as well as meeting the preacher and his buddy on the trail.
There were some serious sections of this book but for the most part it’s a light-hearted, funny and engaging book. Highly recommend!
… (mere)
Cathie_Dyer | 9 andre anmeldelser | Feb 29, 2024 |
After reading Sean Dietrich’s memoir I just had to read this novel and I wasn’t disappointed. He wove these stories of the people during the Depression into a piece of art, that left me in tears and at times laughing out loud, but always rooting for them to press on. In the beginning you are introduced to friends and migrant workers Paul, Vern, and their dog Lou who is a tracking hound. When they find a baby in the woods, and can’t find who she belongs to, they end up with a new member of their family. When they come across a destitute mother traveling with her children their family grows again. Then there is Coot a young evangelist working for a abusive con man doing tent revivals. Another wonderful character is Marigold who has lost her baby and almost her life only to be given a gift, or curse, of healing others. There are more intriguing characters each with their own stories. The book is in 3 parts, the chapters are short, so you keep turning the pages to find out more about their imperfect lives and as I said before rooting for them. I read this through my library, but I may have to buy one to share.… (mere)
PamelaBarrett | 9 andre anmeldelser | Feb 7, 2024 |

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