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Running on Red Dog Road

Running on Red Dog Road by Drema Hall Berkheimer

In the deep country of West Virginia, Drema Berkheimer grew up under the strong guidance of Pentecostal grandparents who have some experiences that you can’t quite believe.  This memoir, Running on Red Dog Road is replete with emotion, with the pain of losing one’s father and trying to get along in the world, and a sense of wonder at the pneumatic experiences of Pentecostal believers.  From speaking in tongues to witnessing a snake handler, Drema was enmeshed in a world that was drawn to the supernatural, but what makes this book come to life is her experiences with the way in which her grandparents lived. 

In chapter 6 Drema tells the story of how hobos would often come to visit her grandparents.  She recounts this, “This time, he led the hobo to a stack of kindling near the stump we used as a chopping block.  The man nodded and began to fill the wheelbarrow with the wood…Grandpa always said that man that earned his own dinner could hold his head up (49).” Her grandmother would after eating dinner with the hobo, send him along with some extras for the road.  All of this effort was given to love thy neighbor, something that her grandparents were pushed on toward by the Pentecostal Home Missionary Society.  What was most peculiar about the chapter was the pointed enthusiasm Drema’s grandparents had for these hobos, noting that they were just one good job away from making their way, even offering traveling mercies for any and every hobos they met.  Although it was a different time and world as Drema remembered it, the idea of blessing fellow travelers confronts our cynical attitudes of today.

From piano lessons with Mr. Pursley to helping grandma with church music, Drema’s life was filled with experiences that many children find growing up.  What was rather remarkable about his memoir was how Drema recounted the fluidity of her grandparent’s faith, how they were consistently kind and loving toward the hobos and the well-dressed, the church going and those would never grace the church steps.  You will find plenty here in these pages to interest you.

Thanks to BookLookBloggers for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


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