Allison, Dorothy

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Annotated by:
Wear, Delese
  • Date of entry: Jun-25-1998


Another portrayal of growing up poor, female, and Southern, Cavedweller is the story of Delia Byrd's return to Cayro, Georgia, after leaving behind her life in a now defunct but legendary band and a newly dead husband. After packing up her aging Datsun with everything she owned and her ten-year-old daughter Cissy, Delia heads toward Cayro with a vengeance to stay sober and reclaim the two daughters she left behind ten years ago when she fled from their father and abusive husband.

The change in lifestyle was profound, from a glitzy life on the road, credit cards that bought anything whether you could pay for it or not, and around-the-clock drinking, to the life of a hairdresser in Cayro. If Cissy's rage weren't enough to live with, Delia finds that her teenage daughters Amanda and Dede do not forgive and her hometown does not forget how she abandoned her children ten years earlier. The story that unfolds is Delia's painful reunion with her dying ex-husband, her conflicted relationship with her daughters, the company and friendship of women who sustained her and her children, and her search for peace and meaning in her childhood home.


Like Allison's earlier Bastard Out of Carolina (see this database), Cavedweller is ultimately about families and all the conflicts, strength, pain, loyalty, and changes that characterize them. Delia and her daughters Cissy, Dede, and Amanda are richly developed characters working at (and sometimes against) this conflicted, complicated relationship, which turns out to be the book's greatest strength--how people navigate and chart the what we hide in our hearts (an image developed in Dede's secret and dangerous life wandering in Cayro's underground caves, the "mama-core, the bludgeoned heart of the earth").



Place Published

New York



Page Count