Some people fear losing their parents; others couldn't lose them if they tried. "Nothing about her dying surprised me much," writes Malcolm Jones about the death of his mother. "It's how fiercely she stayed alive after she was dead that caught me unaware." Jones's warmly elegant memoir, Little Boy Blues, recalls his childhood in an impoverished, fractured North Carolina household of the 1950s and '60s. Smitten as a young boy with movies and magic tricks, and "furtively vain about my hard life," Jones retrieves elusive memories—of his emotionally stranded mother; his alcoholic, mostly absent father; his devout, "casually racist" aunt and uncle—and creates a rich tapestry of Southern life.