Drop Anchored

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According to Anchored in Love, “When the story of John and June Carter Cash has been told in brief, this is the happy ending: they had a son, and they all lived happily ever after. That seems to be the unspoken message of the film Walk the Line.”

The story didn’t end there, of course. And the son they had, John Carter Cash, has grown up to write Anchored in Love, “an intimate portrait of June Carter Cash,” the beautiful, charismatic country singer from rural Virginia who was married to the legendary Johnny Cash for 35 years, until her death.

Sons probably shouldn’t set out to write biographies of their mothers.

It is well-documented that June Carter Cash dedicated many years to ridding her husband of his drug habit; less known is that later in life, June herself began to pop pills and fall prey to addiction. According to her son, “She would never have acknowledged that she too was an addict.”

The author grappled with writing about June’s problem. “My mom’s addiction late in life was known to very few people,” he writes in the Epilogue, “and I hesitated to write about it now, knowing that if she were here she would likely deny her addiction.”

Thank God he did write about it, or the book would be too saccharine to digest. As it is, Anchored in Love is filled with statements like, “She was always giving, always spontaneous, and she gave most of all to her family,” and “Throughout my young life, Mom was a devout woman, totally committed to her husband and loyal to her home and family.” Well, that’s nice. It’s also a snooze.

Harder still to take is the heaping helping of religion in these pages. John Carter Cash, who believes in God with the fervor of a recovering addict (he hasn’t even taken Tylenol PM in several years), has filled his tome with “her rock-solid Christian faith” and “the forgiving grace of her Creator.” The sheer volume of this kind of talk is overwhelming, even knowing that despite their demons, John Carter Cash’s parents were serious Christians.

Ultimately, June Carter Cash, who died in May 2003, just a few months before her husband’s death, remains a little blurry around the edges. This could be because author John Carter Cash is her son. It’s hard to write someone’s life story from that perspective. And in fact, he seems to have written this book largely for his family. He writes: “I would prefer that when my children and grandchildren want to know who their grandmother was, that they find the personality and story of June Carter Cash in this book, written by someone within the family who loved her…”

The Cash kids will love the book. The rest of us might want to skip it. – Cathy Matusow

Anchored in Love, Thomas Nelson, $24.99
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