It will be interesting to compare this story of growing up in rural Minnesota with The Cape Ann, which I read earlier, and Lake Wobegon Summer 1956, which I am reading next. The Cape Ann was sad, but parts of this book were disturbing. Memoirs are often exaggerated, still I know that even if these events are not exactly "true", they are true for somebody somewhere. I expect that women in all times and ages have felt lives of quiet despair, trapped in the seemingly endless cycle of childbirth and childrearing, cleaning and cooking, and hard toil.
Review from Publisher's Weekly:
Helget's debut begins with a staggering example of her father's brutality: he mercilessly beats a cow to death for not weaning her calf. Yet Helget refuses to succumb to a "woe is me" attitude, and she layers vignettes to create a lyrical story of growing up on a Minnesota farm in the 1980s, where her mother verges on insanity, her five unruly younger sisters get underfoot, and death is a familiar part of life. The memoir's charm lies in Helget's dulcet use of language; even as she describes the century-old death of a little girl accidentally buried alive, her words sing: "Colors explode behind her lids, the colors of poppies and apples and straw and cantaloupe and leaves and Monarchs and stars and sky. And yet... she struggles to open her eyes.... it's black where she is." The amalgamation of reminiscences appears random until the final piece, in which Helget weaves an account of her child self with that of her adult self, providing context for the previous memories. Pregnant and married at 19, lonely and isolated, Helget tantalizes with a brief peek at her adulthood, but it's enough, because the glimpses into her younger life so satisfyingly explain who she has become. (Oct.)
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