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Review: In God We Trust All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd

Submitted by on December 5, 2012 – 4:00 amNo Comment

Author: Jean Shepherd
Title: In God We Trust All Others Pay Cash
Release: April 1966
Reviewer: Chrissy
Source: Library
Purchase: | Book Depository

A beloved, bestselling classic of humorous and nostalgic Americana, reissued in a strikingly designed paperback edition.

Before Garrison Keillor and Spalding Gray there was Jean Shepherd: a master monologist and writer who spun the materials of his all-American childhood into immensely resonant–and utterly hilarious–works of comic art. In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash represents one of the peaks of his achievement, a compound of irony, affection, and perfect detail that speaks across generations.

In God We Trust, Shepherd’s wildly witty reunion with his Indiana hometown, disproves the adage “You can never go back.” Bending the ear of Flick, his childhood-buddy-turned-bartender, Shepherd recalls passionately his genuine Red Ryder BB gun, confesses adolescent failure in the arms of Junie Jo Prewitt, and relives a story of man against fish that not even Hemingway could rival. From pop art to the World’s Fair, Shepherd’s subjects speak with a universal irony and are deeply and unabashedly grounded in American Midwestern life, together rendering a wonderfully nostalgic impression of a more innocent era when life was good, fun was clean, and station wagons roamed the earth.

This Christmas season is upon us and nothing puts me in the Christmas spirit like the classic holiday film A Christmas Story. For years I’ve laughed at this hilarious tale of a young boy who lusts after a BB gun for Christmas only to be greeted with the heartbreaking phrase “You’ll shoot your eye out.” Each year I have vowed to read the book that inspired this film, a book entitled In God We Trust All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd. This year I finally took the plunge.

If you are looking for a book that strictly deals with the events of the film then you will be sorely disappointed. While many of the scenes from the film and catch phrases are in this novel, not all of them take place at Christmas time and they do not occur in order. Many changes were made to the film script so some of the classic scenes are not what you expected (for example, Ralphie does not receive a pair of pink bunny footie pajamas, but instead a pair of pink bunny slippers.)

However, with that being said it was an enjoyable read. It was more of a glimpse back into a writer’s childhood growing up in the Midwest during the era of the great depression. There is a great deal of cynicism in reference to the human race and the ways of the world but Jean Shepherd writes in a way that everyone can identify with. His depiction of growing from children into adults and the major events that occur within that time frame manage to speak to the kid in all of us.

The Red Ryder BB Gun is only a small portion of this tale and takes place near the very beginning of the book. If you are searching for this portion of the story alone then read no further than chapter two. But if you want to catch a glimpse into the world of children during the depression era as well as a glimpse into the human heart and psyche than I recommend you read this entire book.

Everything about Shepherd’s writing is poetic. He manages bring a majesty to everyday items and occurrences that speak to the soul of those of us who search for deeper meaning in our surroundings and the mundane daily activities of our perfectly ordinary lives. His particular depiction of what the holiday season means to little children is spectacular. I recall feeling every emotion he described when I was growing up and was able to relive these emotions through the reading of this book.

I remember being an awkward teenager and was transported back in time when reading about Ralph’s botched blind date with a girl that he found to be the most beautiful in the world. If I had to choose one word to describe this novel it would be nostalgia. If you are looking to stroll down memory lane, no matter what generation you grew up during, then this is the book for you.

Chrissy fell in love with books at an early age. It all started with Judi Barrett’s Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. At the tender age of five she decided that she wanted to be a writer. Later, she graduated to books like A Wrinkle in Time, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and the Goosebumps series, participating avidly in her school’s Book It program. High school brought on new challenges and loves. She began writing for the school’s newspaper and literary magazine. The works of Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, and Shirley Jackson quickly overran her bookshelves. But when Chrissy was introduced to the world of Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance, a grand love affair was set in motion. She is an avid reader of romance, urban fantasy, horror, erotica, and cozy mysteries. After working for the city library for six years and being surrounded by the works of greatly admired authors, she decided to devote her life to writing full time and hasn’t looked back since. When she is not devouring book after book, Chrissy loves to cook, bake, volunteer at the local animal shelter, and feed her addiction for horror movies. She lives in Maryland with her family and beloved pets.
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