Review of The Pale Faced Lie by David Crow
Nature vs. nurture. What factors determine a person’s character and potential? Some parents do all that they can to ensure their children have everything they need to succeed. Then there are parents like the two in this story.
David Crow did not choose his parents. His father was a habitual criminal who enlisted his son to aid in some of his crimes. His mother was a psychologically damaged individual barely able to care for herself, let alone her three kids. David grew up in extreme poverty with poor nutrition and little to no healthcare, despite needing glasses and treatment for an ear infection that ultimately damaged his hearing. He was disadvantaged at every step. Even when he left home and tried to make his own way through life, his parents were there to hinder and discredit his achievements. David Crow’s memoir is a testament to overcoming obstacles.
There have been a few similar memoirs based on dysfunctional family life: Educated, The Glass Castle, and Hillbill Elegy. This book belongs in the same league. I enjoyed this one as much or more than those better-known titles, mostly because of the humor and wit.
David Crow grew up on an Indian reservation, believing that he was a full-blooded Cherokee. He learned much later that no one in his family had Indian heritage. His father was abusive both mentally and physically. David’s memoir starts with his earliest memories and follows him into adulthood. Some of the more insightful passages occur when David sees his mischievous deeds through the lenses of others, like the time he pranked a neighbor at the direction of his father.
I woke up that night with a knot in my stomach, thinking about what Mary and my paper route customers had said and how angry they were. For the first time, I saw my behavior from someone else’s point of view.
How is it that someone like David can succeed in life despite the disadvantages? I believe it has to do with reading. I learned the value of reading later in life. The George R.R. Martin quote says it all for me:
A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who doesn’t read lives only one.
If you develop a love of reading, you can escape your surroundings. You can travel, learn, and experience cultures and peoples beyond your limited visual horizon. After reading a Pale Faced Lie, I now have a little more insight into what it’s like living with limited means.