Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Book Review: The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio

The subtitle of this book is "How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less." The author is Terry Ryan, the sixth child of the ten and the second daughter. During the late-1940's and the 1950's, Ms. Ryan's mother, Evelyn Ryan, used her gift for writing shorty, witty, often pithy prose and poetry and entered the many contests sponsored by different companies: Kraft, Western Auto, Burma Shave, Dial, Dr. Pepper. Those contests became a lifeline for the family, who struggled financially in large part because of their father's alcoholism.

Mrs. Ryan never let their poverty stop her or her children from pursuing their dreams. She won washers, dryers, toasters, skates, baseball mitts, cases of Almond Joys (one of Terry's favorites). Her wins often seemed well-timed: one son has an accident where his bike is destroyed and Mrs. Ryan wins another. She wins a chest freezer, then wins a shopping spree to fill it. But the biggest prize is her last.

Terry Ryan has breezy, chatty style of writing, which serves her story well. Evelyn Ryan was an optimist and her children's biggest cheerleader and its apparent that her daughter learned it well.

The Ryan family might have been short on cash, but, thanks to their mother, they were never short on spirit.

On the March Hare Scale: 4 bookmarks