Harvesting okra is painful, nasty, thankless work, especially on a sticky Mississippi morning, at the break of dawn, with a million mosquitos determined to keep you company. That's one of the messages gleaned from Easterling's childhood memories. Born in Prospect, Mississippi, to an unsalaried circuit-riding preacher who "raised six kids by hustling and scrambling," the author augments his disdain for okra with recollections of running from scarecrows, trying to out-do (and impress) his father, meeting country fortune-tellers, con artists, and children even poorer than himself—in short, growing up in the good old days when times were challenging.
First off, it must be stated that the author is a gifted storyteller. As a former staff advisor to Congress who has worked for several federal agencies and as a lay leader for the Church of Redeemer, he has mastered the gift of gab. He demonstrates in an understated way that the secret of a really good yarn is the odd and amusing characters and the little things that happen to them along the way, rather than any grand objective. His narrative comes across as country-fried Garrison Keillor: "When you're a one-horse farmer without a horse, you take what you can get." While poverty was always close by, and some issues—race being one—were thorny, the author's focus in general is on simpler times, self-reliance, and the cohesion of family and community.
Of God, Rattlesnakes and Okra is a personal memoir from a natural storyteller that will draw you in and take you back in time, whether it's a time you also shared or one you can only imagine.