Dear DeeDee

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An elliptical novel that integrates the death of a lineage into a reflection on personal mortality, Kat Meads’s Dear DeeDee recasts the unresolved stories of a Southern paternal line. Rooted in North Carolina, the Meads family line is petering out. Its generations are scattered and its relationships are shattered. This incites a one-sided correspondence from Aunt K to her college-aged niece, DeeDee, in which she reworks the Meadses’ narrative and “pimps nostalgia as connection.” Like a stone skipping across a pond, the book’s structure touches on depths without wholly revealing them. Aunt K writes from California and from middle age; her correspondence is structured into monthly sections. While she says she’s presenting herself and the past three generations too honestly for family comfort, there’s a sense of persistent withholding, of the “eye fixing on what it could bear.” The narrative’s relaxed pace also creates a time-out-of-time that emphasizes the importance of story, both to Aunt K and to the Southern tradition she’s revisiting. A bibliophile who makes sense of nostalgia through books, Aunt K knows the value of a good yarn, especially one whose meanderings invite revelation, amusement, and audience participation, without any one element dominating. At times, Aunt K is the perfect raconteur, passing along wisdom and bon mots to a beloved youngster; at others, she is unyielding about her nostalgia and hazy on specifics. But what the novel lacks in tension, it makes up for in its pitch-perfect encapsulation of late middle-aged reverie, particularly as it pertains to the troubles of family, fate, and “how difficult it seems for Southerners to relinquish investment in the controlling idea of it.” As a reverie, Dear DeeDee is as carefully packed as an overnight suitcase, its final destination signaled as much by what’s left in as what’s left out.

—Letitia Montgomery-Rodgers, Foreword Reviews

“If you know Kat Meads’s work, you’ll recognize the author in these pages. If you don’t know her, you’re in for a treat. Taking the form of letters to her niece in 1996, Dear DeeDee consists of vignettes, which, when quilted together, describe an entire life. A cynical romantic, a clear-eyed myopic, and an honest fibber, Meads emerges in these pages not so much as a memoirist but as a chronicler of a time, place, family and way of life which is no more. The details of her Southern upbringing are precise, the humor acerbic, and the abiding love she has for her family, particularly for her beloved brother, affecting. You’ll finish this evocative book wishing you had an aunt like Woolf-worshipping, keenly-aware, word-braiding Meads.”

—Allison Amend, author of Enchanted Islands and A Nearly Perfect Copy

“My first encounter with the writing of Kat Meads was her spellbinding genre-blurring story “In the Guise of an Explanation of My Aunt’s Life,” a three-decades-ago precursor to this beguiling take on ‘Southern memoir.’ Always defiant of definition, Meads has mapped a unique family and a special region without chronology or longitude, and has rendered a particular life and a whole way of life in epistolary vignettes that bend the two ends of a linear genealogy together into a circle.”

—Cris Mazza, author of Various Men Who Knew Us as Girls and Something Wrong With Her

“The magic and joy of an intimate conversation is hard to renounce. We simply need to share our stories, and Kat Meads does just that in this charming and chatty epistolary memoir to a beloved, pretend niece. Family lore, life wisdom, and real affection abound in these letters. In our current zeitgeist of swift and glib communication, Meads swims upstream past 280 characters of a tweet, texts open to misinterpretation, deadening email chains, to remind us all of the delight in the art of letter writing. Dear DeeDee is an absolute pleasure to read.”

—Natalie Serber, author of Shout Her Lovely Name and Community Chest

“In these hilarious and heart-breaking letters, exiled Southerner Kat Meads remembers, regrets, and makes us ‘bark-laugh.’”

—Norma Watkins, author of The Last Resort: Taking the Mississippi Cure and That Woman from Mississippi