Childers, Sarah Beth

PRODIGALS: A SISTER'S MEMOIR OF APPALACHIA AND LOSS

ABOUT THE BOOK

Prodigals, a memoir in essays, explores the life of Sarah Beth Childers’s wildly creative brother, who committed suicide at twenty-two, and her life with him and after him, through the lens of the Biblical parable of the Prodigal Son.

This book examines the ways Childers’s brother’s story was both universal and uniquely Appalachian. While the archetype of the prodigal son carries all its assumed baggage, the Appalachian setting of Prodigals brings its own influences. Childers foregrounds the Appalachian landscape in her narrative, depicting its hardwood forests, winding roads, mining-stained creeks and rivers, hill-clinging goats and cows, neighborhoods and trailer parks tucked between mountains. The Childers family’s fervent religious faith and resistance to medical intervention seems normal in this world, as does their conflicting desires to both escape from Appalachia and to stay forever at home.

Weaving in the stories of other famous prodigals, including Branwell Brontë, the alcoholic brother of the Brontë sisters; Jimmy Swaggart, the fallen televangelist;Robert Crumb, her brother’s beloved author of sexist and racist comic books; and even herself, Childers examines the role of the prodigal within the intimate tapestry of family life and beyond―to its larger sociocultural meanings.