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Anchored in Love: An Intimate Portrait of June Carter Cash by John Carter Cash - Review

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

One thing you might not know about me is that I really love Johnny Cash's music. I've been a fan for a long time now, and so is my mum. I also like quite a lot of June Carter's music, and the music of The Carter Family, too. I could probably stand to learn more of her music, but I do like her. Also, if you don't know, she wrote some of Johnny's biggest hits, like Ring of Fire! That's an absolute classic! I know a bit about their lives but not loads, so I wanted to read this book when I heard about it a few months ago. It was published in 2007, only four years after June and then Johnny died in 2003, but I hadn't heard of it until recently. I don't even remember how. But it was expensive to buy so I decided to not bother.

And then Spotify started doing audiobooks on Premium, which I have. And this was on there! So I started listening to it while on car drives by myself, and I finished it in only a few weeks. It's narrated by another country singer, who had a good and engaging voice and who really sounded like Johnny Cash at times!

It was really interesting to hear about June's early life and her place in the Carter family. The book doesn't focus too much on her previous marriages, but does talk about her daughters Carlene and Rosie and their places in the family. John Carter remembers Rosie living with them when he was little, but he also recounts her addiction and the pain that she put upon her family and especially her mother when she was ill. He talks about how all Johnny's four daughters had their place in the family too and that June pretty much accepted them all as hers. John Carter talks about being the spoilt youngest child - and only son - in the family and what that meant; I actually felt he was quite self aware here on what privileges that had given him that maybe his sisters didn't benefit from. I also think that John Carter clearly only focussed on his own parents and not on their previous spouses, because that really just didn't interest him. 

I of course knew about Johnny's addiction problems, but hearing about them through John Carter was absolutely heartbreaking. He talks about sharing a hotel room on tour with his dad when he was really quite a small child and listening to his dad's laboured breathing and that John Carter would worry that his dad had died. I feel like there was a lot of unpacked trauma here but because John Carter was just talking about his mother for the most part, he just talked about how she acted and the huge love she had for her family. It was interesting to hear about the family as a whole - their homes, their staff, their touring - as well as the bad parts. 

John Carter also suffered from addiction and he isn't quite as open about that as you would perhaps like, but it was still interesting and it still added to the story of June. I didn't know that she herself had problems with drugs towards the end of her life. The stories about her last recordings are pretty sad, actually. The part about her death was really sad, too - and then of course Johnny died just a few months later. 

I generally liked the book and I particularly liked John Carter talking about the funny things June used to say and the 'klediments' (treasures) she had in each of their houses. It was cute to hear about how his second wife made him listen to the Carter Family more - his own legacy! It's quite funny. I didn't like that there was quite a lot of fat shaming of his mother towards the end, and I do think that some of the talk of addiction and god was a bit much. But maybe that's because I'm not a believer. I'm giving this four out of five as I did like it for the most part. 

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