I have to admit that I picked this book because I really liked the picture on the cover. Who wouldn’t? The little girl looks so carefree. The story begins with seven-year-old Gigi. She’s an only child who is mostly ignored by her parents. But Gigi has a grandma that loves her to pieces, and tells her that she can be “the good nearby”. Whatever is going wrong in the world, she can be the “good” that God put in someone else’s life.
The book jumps back and forth from her childhood to adulthood. She endures a miserable marriage to a man who treats her like garbage. Then some other women who care about her come into her life. They are a blessing to her, and in the end she blesses them in an unusual way.
The themes of domestic abuse and supportive friendship run side by side throughout the book. The love of a grandmother and her strong faith in God also were a major part of the story. The novel reminded me that each one of us has the ability to share the love of Jesus with those around us.
Evelyn Ryan was a woman married to an alcoholic with a bad temper. More often than not, a large portion of his paycheck was spent on booze before he even got it home. The Ryans had ten children, a large number even for the 1950s. What was a woman to do?
Evelyn’s options were limited, as their church didn’t permit divorce, and abusiveness was acceptable in those times. She did have a flair for writing, and she used it to enter contests for product jingles. Over the years, she won an astonishing amount of cash and prizes, which she used to feed the family and help pay the bills. This biographical tale, written by one of her daughters, is nothing short of amazing.
The story of the Ryan family was made into a movie in 2005. It was very well-done, and did not deviate from the book, although obviously there was much more detail in the book.
By the age of five, I had grown used to seeing Mom, pencil behind her right ear, spend hours each day at the ironing board. She often said that she did her best work while ironing, her hands working on one chore, her head on another. On the squared end of the board, where the iron stood upright, Mom kept an open notebook of current contest jingles and entries in various stages of completion…
Each evening after the last supper dish had been washed and put away – never an easy task since we used every plate in the house – Mom would grab her notebook and sit down at the end of the couch to produce more entries. Inevitably she fell asleep after a few minutes, notebook on her lap, postage stamps and other effluvia on contesting slipping out of the pages and onto the floor. Each new year, Mom started a new notebook to fill with entries that might go nowhere or all the way to the top.
We all make promises, and then try to keep them. In this story by Ann Tatlock, a mother promises to protect her children from harm, and ends up fleeing to another town to get away from her abusive husband. The story is told from the viewpoint of her 11-year-old daughter Roz.
There are multiple story lines in the novel:
Roz finds an old lady sitting on their front porch, insisting that this is her house. The woman (Tillie) ends up becoming a huge part of Roz’s life, and teaches her about God.
Roz’s mom has to adjust to being a single parent, something she has never had to do before.
Roz’s dad will do anything to get his family back, and Roz is torn in her feelings for him.
Roz befriends a black girl about her age, even though it not socially acceptable.
This is not only a good book to read, it is also a good one to listen to on audio. The reader is an older woman, who sounds just like what you think Tillie should sound like. Either way, this story is a winner.