Longreads

Daniel Wallace’s mother told everyone she knew about her brief marriage during the summer of 1943, still dripping in her swimsuit while standing before the county clerk, taking her vows. Her new husband was 18. She was 12.

Being a child bride was something Wallace’s mother was proud of, “because it cut to the chase of the kind of woman my mother was, and who she always had been: defiant, sexual, shocking, a woman who bridled when the spotlight was on anyone other than her.” As it turned out, it also wasn’t true.

Wallace is the author of Big Fish, a novel about a son who tries to reconcile his father’s life with the tall tales he told. In real life, his mother was just as messy with her family history, and in this essay for the Bitter Southerner, Wallace reconciles the mother he knew with the tales she…

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