Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Blood: A Memoir - Allison Moorer

On the day that their estranged father shot and killed their mother on the front lawn of their little Alabama house before doing the same to himself, Allison Moorer was just fourteen years old and her sister, Shelby Lynne, was almost eighteen. What happened on that August 12, 1986, morning may not define their lives, but it forever changed who they were and who they would become. Allison Moorer’s Blood: A Memoir is their story.

“There are parts of a heart that can never heal once they are broken. There is no glue that will hold.” (Allison Moorer, page 14)

Blood is Allison Moorer’s book of memories, and as such, it is told from her point-of-view, but one of the book’s most touching parts is the short “Foreword” written by her older sister, Shelby. Shelby has also written about her parents and their marriage but she says that she “always wondered where Sissy was in it.” She realized that each of them always had their own memories about living with their parents, but that in her memories Allison is always “in the background.” Now having read her sister’s book, Shelby knows exactly where Allison was all those years ago:

            “While I was trying to protect Mama and watch our failing parents’ every move, Sissy was there scared, worried, alone, suffering, and I never knew it. She was there hanging back, hanging tough, watching, observing, worrying, testing the waters of her world, waiting…We were together.”

There is no doubt that the sisters know where each other are now. They are best friends, bonded forever by what they endured and experienced as children. Somehow, even though they can never forgive their father for taking their mother from them when she was only 41, neither of them hate the man. Instead, they hate what he did.

Allison Moorer’s father was an alcoholic who felt that he had married the most beautiful woman in the world. And he was a jealous man, one convinced that there was a man “around every corner” who wanted nothing more out of life than to steal his wife away from him. He wanted, and he had because his wife couldn’t stop him from taking it from her, the authority to “approve her every action.” But according to Moorer, although never diagnosed as such, her father may have had other issues. She almost hopes he was bipolar, schizophrenic, or suffering some other kind of borderline personality disorder because she does not want to believe that it could have been just plain old “meanness” that made him “erase” her mother the way that he did.

Allison Moorer and Shelby Lynne may have survived the trauma of their teen years, but they did not come out of the experience whole. They are, and will always be, emotionally scarred by the actions of the first male role model in their lives, an impatient, angry man who was disappointed in himself and his failure to earn an independent living for his family. Moorer recalls how, “He always seemed to have something on his mind. I was always careful about what I said around him. I never wanted to bother him and risk him directing his anger at me.” As the older sister, it seems Shelby was not so fortunate, and she was more often struck by their father. One of the saddest segments of Blood is the barely-two-pages-long one titled “What happens when you hit your daughter” detailing how a daughter’s personality will forever be changed for the worse by an abusive father who strikes her – especially when it comes to how she deals with every man with whom she will have any kind of relationship for the rest of her life. Those two pages are among the most difficult to read pages I’ve ever encountered in my life.

Bottom Line: Allison Moorer and Shelby Lynne are lucky to have had music in their lives to help them through the most difficult days of their childhood and their adulthood. Both women have enjoyed successful music careers - although Shelby seems to struggle to see it that way sometimes - in the music industry, but even their music is influenced by the childhood trauma they suffered. Blood tells the story of two remarkably strong women who are always there for each other, two women determined not to repeat the all too common mistakes of their parents. They are trying to break the cycle for good.


  1. Sounds like both sisters have powerful and heartbreaking stories to tell.

    1. The truly heartbreaking part of their story is how every day is still such a struggle for them all these years later. I got the impression that Shelby is finding life more difficult than Allison is, but that may well be the wrong impression.