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Stitching stories of days gone by

Sitting down with a copy of Crestwood author Bob Thompson’s Stitched Together: Stories of a Kentucky Life, (University Press of Kentucky, $29.95), is reminiscent of gathering around the chair of a favorite relative to hear stories of days gone by, sometimes embellished in the retelling, but always entertaining every time they’re told. These stories weave together the fabric of families and help to preserve the connection between past and present.

Thompson, a master of storytelling, likens his latest collection to two people: his grandmother who, with tiny stitches, made “stacks of quilts” so that she could reach across time to future generations; and his mother, who kept diaries, photo albums and scrapbooks as tangible gifts of love to her family. As Thompson writes, “Life’s treasures are a patchwork of stories with characters revealed in the pauses between stitches and words.”

His grandmother’s country grocery store functions as a central character in Thompson’s book. Because such important life lessons were learned either gathered around the store’s community black and white television or on the front porch with the menfolk, Granny’s store seems to take on a life of its own. It was here that Thompson waited eagerly to be invited on fishing trips with the town legends, watched Granny quilt, scared the daylights out of an insurance man and learned Granny’s threshold for foul language.

Thompson’s devotion to family remains evident as his stories shift in the second half of the book from his childhood to parenting his own child. With true storyteller observation, Thompson especially savors these moments, locking them into memory, and crafting them into a documented piece of space and time to be passed on like Granny’s quilts and his mother’s photo albums. Perhaps as a nod to his mother, Thompson includes his own photo album of some of the characters and events mentioned.

For readers craving more of Thompson’s pull-up-a-chair entertainment, find him on the Kentucky Homefront radio show or at Louisville’s Corn Island Storytelling Festival, or connect with him online at www.colbobky.com.

—Penny Woods

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