Abbott's father, Alfred, a "gentleman bandit" from Hot Springs, Ark., taught her that books were more important than boys, that she should "stand on her feet and depend on no man." Painting himself as an adventurer caught in misfortune's web, her bookmaker father, whose life revolved around horses, pool and gambling, ensnared her in his private mythologies and prevented her from attending Radcliffe (Texas State was closer to home). This luminous, touching memoir of coming-of-age in the South during the 1940s and '50s is both an exorcism and an act of love. Abbott ( Womenfolks: Growing up Down South ) deftly evokes a halcyon Southern town awakening to political corruption, changing sexual and social mores. Her book sings with fierce love for the flawed patriarch with whom she finally comes to terms.