5 days ago
Monday, January 5, 2015
"Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them." Henry David Thoreau.
I recently finished the biographic novel, Maude by Donna Mabry whose main character pretty much fits the quotation above. If you are looking for an uplifting book, please pass on this one. However if you were curious about the lives of women in the early to mid 1900's, this will take you there.
Maude is the story of Donna Mabry's grandmother who lived a life of quiet desperation that thankfully few of us know today.
It was a time when women rarely worked outside of the home and were totally dependent on their husbands, good or bad. They stayed in loveless marriages because there was no choice if they wanted to eat and provide for their children. They had no vote.
Marriages were often arranged and the ages of the brides were frequently
quite young. Maude was just 14 when her marriage was arranged, mainly because she was an orphan.
I know my own step grandmother was playing hide and seek with her friends the morning of her wedding to a much older man she hardly knew. Women often went from children to wives in a day as they reached puberty.
There were none of today's conveniences. Water was hauled, laundry was by hand, toilets out door, electricity not common, cooking was by wood stove and entertainment was either at church or via book.
I found all of this very interesting and made me much more appreciative of my life today. That was not my main interest however. There is an honesty in this book that is not often found in biographies that often sugar coat the heroine's motives.
Maude had a very sad life but she is not portrayed as a sweet little woman. She has strong opinions and some rather strange reactions to her life. I think what shocked me the most was that while she had 4 children, she admitted only loving 2 of them. We are programmed to believe a mother's love is all encompassing. Maude's was not.
A lot of the characters are unlovable, including 2 of those children but especially her mother-in-law who was down right scary.
She loses 2 family members to the Spanish flu, which was brought home by soldiers from WWI, that took a million lives world wide. I know my own aunt fell victim to that same flu as a child.
The depression hits and she and her husband lose all. They didn't have a lot to lose but were comfortable. Now even necessities were a struggle to earn.
Then as the depression ends, war comes to America via Pearl Harbor. I know a lot of us think we are in hard times right now with employment still a problem for many, violence and wars raging around the world, but I think those folks held the bragging rights to what hard times really were.
Today, there is employment or at least programs to help those in need. We don't have Hitler marching across Europe while killing millions of his own people, our food is plentiful and not dependent upon ration stamps. We still have a volunteer army.
If this were a fiction work, you would think the author had over done Maude's trials, but it is biographical which is really sad. Her life was only briefly shiny but she never quit trying to get by and make do.
Not up lifting at all but a stark book about a time we are lucky to not be living in. It will make you very appreciative of your everyday blessings.
Maude passed with her song still in her but her granddaughter makes the song come alive and sings it not with flourishes, but with honesty. This is a trip through that not too distant of a time.
Right now it is just $.99 at Kindle or you may find it at the library. Hope you give it a shot.
However when you read the last page, you might want to reach for a nice fun book to cleanse the emotional palate and bring you back to your happy place. That is what I have done with Midlife Cabernet:Life Love and Laughter after Fifty by Elaine Ambrose. A little irreverence is fun, sometimes needed and it is good to laugh out loud.
at 5:16 AM Posted by Arkansas Patti