Allison Moorer, a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter, wrote her memoir as a way to reckon with the moment in which her life and that of her sister, fellow musician Shelby Lynne Moorer, was shattered. On an early morning in the summer of 1986, her father shot her mother and then shot himself.
Allison recounts this tragedy and the years surrounding it in her new book Blood — a story about love, intergenerational trauma, and the healing power of music.
“Everyone loved her. So he shrank her,” Allison, 47, writes of her father, Vernon Franklin Moorer, and his abusive treatment of her mother, Laura Lynn Smith Moorer. “He shrank her until she almost disappeared. She decided that she didn’t want to disappear anymore. Then he disappeared her for good.”
Raised in Frankville, Alabama, the Moorer sisters discovered their love of music from their parents, who were both musicians. But their lives were often upended by their deeply unhappily father.
Vernon, a school teacher, abused alcohol and his young family on a regular basis, Allison explains. She was 4 or 5 when she started lulling herself to sleep with a prayer she’d repeat over and over.
“Please God, don’t let Daddy hurt Mama,” she would say, according to Blood.
After years of violence, Laura moved her and her daughters to a rental house. Allison was 14 and her older sister, Shelby Lynne, was 17 when their father, who suffered from severe depression, made his last visit that fateful morning.
“I think he just broke,” Allison told CBS This Morning co-host Anthony Mason in a recent interview.
In the decades since her parents’ deaths, Allison has tried to make sense of her father’s decision. For the past few years, she’s researched her family and even requested her parents’ autopsy reports. (To this day, Allison doesn’t know what transpired between her parents before the murder-suicide.)
“I wanna know why,” she told the outlet, “so that I can come to terms and say, ‘Okay, well, what I’m really trying to do is forgive.'”
In her book, Allison explores the memories and mementos she has of her family. She also goes over the possible scenarios that could have led to her mother’s death. Was it an accident or did Vernon intend to kill Laura?
Allison, who has a young son John Henry, is specifically haunted by her mother’s last moments. According to Blood, she woke up to the sound of gunfire just outside the house that summer morning. She walked to the doorway and called for her mother.
“Was she cold? Could she see?” writes Allison. “Was she in excruciating pain? What was the last thought that she thought? Please, God, don’t let it be that she couldn’t get to me. I tell myself that she would’ve been gone by the time I got to the door, but I can’t be sure.”
Despite their great loss, Allison and Shelby Lynne have managed to lead successful lives — fueled by their love for each other, their passion for music, and the knowledge that their mother loved them fiercely.
Allison also feels “nothing but love” for her father, she told CBS This Morning. She reached this point after a lot of time and having a son of her own.
“I got to see and experience a little boy,” she told the outlet, “and know that my daddy was one at one time.”
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One of Allison’s biggest hopes is that she’ll be able to change her “legacy.”
“I can’t repair the broken days that set me up to be afraid of life, so afraid that I felt like I had to attack it back at every turn so that it wouldn’t just happen to me anymore, so that I might have some say,” she writes. “But maybe I can start to see it as something kinder than I was shown. That’s my task now, to unlearn, to let down walls, to reject the fear so that I don’t pass it on.”
Blood is on sale now.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “STRENGTH” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.