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Review: White Bread and Mayonnaise by Lula Phine

Lula Phine takes us back to the old south in “White Bread and Mayonnaise”, a straightforward and spiritual tale. It is the early 1930s when we’re introduced to the central character, no more than a newborn baby, and it will be the new millennium before we have heard the story of his long life. Known simply as “the boy” or “the man” accordingly, he comes of age on his father’s farm before setting off to the Korean War. While there, life and limb are spared but deep emotional wounds are inflicted. The terrors of war haunt him well into adulthood as he struggles to balance the uncertainties of farming, his family, and an increasing dependency on alcohol. Intersecting the man’s story are insightful passages commenting on a simple jar whose contents and many purposes are likened to the human condition.  Mind, body, and spirit are examined against the outward forces of life and we’re shown progression and the connectedness of all things in one’s life.

As its title would suggest, this is a basic read. While peppered with small wisdoms, “White Bread and Mayonnaise” can be as dull as a worn butter knife. Without the benefit of dialogue or character names, it seems a listless recounting of the man’s life, of which we are given only cursory information. There is little sense of scene and those we are shown are increasingly at ends. I struggled to find a consistency between the heartwarming moments among family and the narrative describing the man as an unpredictable and emotionally detached drunkard.

The story structure is a classic one and, if it were to be fleshed out and offer a more dynamic set of characters, has the potential to be notable. However, as it stands, it reads as if we have been given a glimpse into a first draft rather than the finished piece. While suitable for children, English language learners, or parents looking for a read-aloud, a more advanced reader is likely to find it too uninvolved to finish. At the end of the day, it is a clean wholesome account of one man’s struggle back to light and life; a nice simply story. Surely that is what some are looking for, but in this reader’s opinion, “White Bread and Mayonnaise” may just leave a bad taste in your mouth.

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