I just finished Betty Auchard's The Home for the Friendless today. Just in time for Betty's appearance tonight at VHOB. It wasn't really necessary for me to even start the book by tonight, let alone finish it. We have had many authors whose books I hadn't (and still haven't) read by the time they appeared at the bookstore. In this case, though, once I started it, I wanted to keep reading. And when I was sure I wouldn't finish in time, the book grabbed me so much that I couldn't put it down.
What's it about? Well, it's the non-fiction account of Betty's childhood. I won't say that her experiences were Glass Castle-like. But they weren't that far off, either. Betty is the oldest of 3 children born to Bassle and Waneta Peal. The book follows the lives of the family members from the time of the Great Depression through the 1st few years after WWII. They lived in numerous houses and apartments along the way, including a 2-year stint where the 3 kids lived without their parents in a home for children called The Home for the Friendless. It's a pretty crazy ride Betty had.
But throughout the telling of her story, and even with all of the hardships, Betty makes sure that we know about the good times. She has a lot of relatives, and many of them came through for her. Bassle and Waneta loved their children, even if they didn't always know how to show it. They tried to do their best. Some of the incidents that Betty relates to us may be hard for many of us to imagine. After all, I know that my mother never walked out on my father (although she might have thought about it) and made it necessary for my brother and me to live in a home. Or even with our relatives. And I also know that my parents didn't divorce 3 times and remarry each time. But Betty's did.
Betty tells her story with poignancy and humor and great insight. But she's never looking for pity. When Betty and her family move to a suburb of Denver, and Betty is able to go to the same high school for 3 years, she blossoms. And so does the book. The initial 250 pages (of 350) take the reader through one difficult period of time after another. It's tough reading but very compelling. The last 100 pages, though, took off like they were on a launching pad. It's nice to see what Betty can do when her home life is stable. She has always had a wide variety of artistic talents - acting, singing, playing instruments, and drawing. But it is particularly gratifying to the reader when she actually has an outlet for these pursuits. I'll let you get the specifics from reading the book.
I enjoyed this book a lot and have already moved her other book - Dancing in my Nightgown: The Rhythms of Widowhood - far up my TBR pile.
PERSONAL ANECDOTE: There's one scene in which Betty makes friends with 2 girls named Joanne (although one spells her name without the "e") in her school orchestra. She calls one Piano Joanne and the other one Violin Joann. My mother's name was Roslyn (yes, Roslyn Russell, but not THAT Roslyn Russell), and her cousin's name was Rosalind. They called my mom Roslyn and her cousin Little Roslyn.