Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Little Heathens (copy)

Yesterday was an exercise in fun as participants buzzed over our latest read, Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm during the Great Depression by Mildred “Millie” Armstrong Kalish for February’s Reading Round Table.

The majority of the group enjoyed the book, but one was deterred by the language. She read the whole book and the offending words appeared in only one chapter, but it was enough to turn her off. That was until we began to talk about the book.

As one can guess by the title, Little Heathens is a memoir written around Millie’s childhood during the Great Depression. She was five-years-old when the trouble started. Her dad had done some bad things. The whispers included, “bankruptcy, bootlegging, and jail time,” and there was an abrupt divorce.

Does she lament over lost quality time with her daddy? Does Millie write about her troubled youth without male guidance? No! This is pre-Oprah and her story is far from depressing. If his name is mentioned, she says he is dead and moves on; matter of fact, the whole family “moves on” and into the grandparents Urmy’s house.

The Urmys are a somber retired couple. They live in the town of Garrison, but through frugal living have bought and paid for four different farms complete with houses and barns that the offspring live and work on. Unfortunately, during the harshest winter months, Millie along with mother, John, Jack, and Avis, live in Garrison to attend school.

The terms of the Urmy household includes rising from sleep at a designated time every day, coming down to breakfast fully clothed and ready for work, eating what Grandpa decides will be the meal, only eating at meal times where the table will be set before anyone can take a seat, and retiring to bed at the same time.

June through Christmas, the family lives on the farm and life is a little more relaxed. That is, if you can call milking the cows, cleaning the separator, cooking three meals, working in the garden, and doing homework daily a relaxing pastime.

This book was a pure joy to read; although, every chapter was filled with four-letter words that offend me such as dust, chop, cook, wash, and iron. Oh, and yes the W-word was thrown a lot. You know W O R K!

Check out Nan's Book Report for Little Heathens at Letters from a Hill Farm!

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