Book Review | Grand Central Publishing | Review by Liam Wilkinson
There’s a scene in Michael Apted’s 1980 biopic Coal Miner’s Daughter in which a thirty-year-old Patsy Cline offers her old maternity clothes to a pregnant Loretta Lynn, a gesture not only of kindness but of love. There’s a magic in that relationship, beautifully captured by Beverly D’Angelo and Sissy Spacek, which clearly transcends the friendship between these two country legends. Indeed, some of the film’s most memorable scenes are those in which we’re offered a curious glimpse of this remarkable bond, a sisterly attachment that was cut so tragically short when Patsy Cline was killed in a plane crash in 1963.
One of the twin girls, with whom Loretta was pregnant at the time of Patsy’s death, recently had the good sense to persuade her eighty-eight-year-old mother to finally write a book about this intriguing relationship. Patsy Lynn, named in memory of Cline, had been hearing the stories all her life and, thanks to her, the tales are now preserved for all time in what is a fascinating, warm-hearted and often revealing memoir.
Written entirely in Loretta Lynn’s distinct Kentucky vernacular and featuring fifty-one brief and engaging chapters, Me & Patsy Kickin’ Up Dust is an illuminating double portrait of two extraordinary women, both climbing the ladder of success and supporting one another along the way. Loretta’s humility is both astounding and endearing as she paints Patsy as a big sister or, at times, a surrogate mother as she strives to beat her own path through the male-dominated country music scene. We hear about the way in which Cline helped her to understand the business, to perform, to present herself and to cope with the adversities of marriage, motherhood and music. But whilst Loretta shows us the strong, protective Patsy, she is also candid in her descriptions of occasions when Cline relied on that “little gal” from Butcher Hollow. It was, as Patsy sang, “true love”.
Loretta’s new book will provide a riveting read for fans of both artists as well as anyone interested in the art of song-writing and the business of country music. It’s also a meditation on the importance of friendship and sisterhood in a world that all too frequently attempts to inhibit both.