Confessions of a Recovering Slut & Other Stories
By Hollis Gillespie

(Regan Books, 272 pages)

It takes a lot of labia to follow up your first memoir, Bleachy-Haired Honky Bitch, with yet another titular stab at your self-image, Confessions of a Recovering Slut. Fortunately Hollis Gillespie's spun-yarn Southern candor holds more than enough spitfire charm to transcend easy dismissal. Hidden beneath Gillespie's self-effacement lies a litany of instantly relatable human realizations, all set to life by a close corps of freakish friends who have forever been coloring outside the lines and living on the other side of the tracks.

Gillespie, a longtime columnist for Atlanta alt-weekly Creative Loafing and frequent NPR contributor, can be forgiven for setting the bar low in both her titles and her personal résumé; from her flawed parents (drunk dad, top-secret-missile-manufacturing mom) to collegiate sexual exploits and a stop-and-start life stumble as a flight attendant living in an Atlanta crack-house ghetto, one would probably expect her to be dead or crazy by now. But, with a little bit of the latter, she approaches her life and work with a wry, even compassionate, wit – repeatedly picking up the scattered shards of porcelain Jesus statues and throwing them back up in the air like some sort of lunatic's parade. Her circle of friends and family play equal parts in the color guard.

"Lary's been my friend longer than anyone practically, and half the fun of having friends is invading their territory," she writes. "Up until Lary shot at me I was routinely plundering through his personal stuff looking for nude self-Polaroids he might use to solicit sex on the internet or something. I swear, I could not believe that man wasn't hiding something, I even looked under the tarps in his backyard, but all I found were a couple of car carcasses and a litter of thin, feral kittens."

If it seems trashy, well, it is. But it's also beautiful beyond words, culminating in a surprise pregnancy and parenthood that sees Gillespie's fantastically flawed extroversion mutated into solemn corner crouches with cake batter in her hair.

"We are all flawed in the most fabulous ways," writes Gillespie.

Some of us more fabulously than others.

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