Author: Betty MacDonald
Narrator: Heather Henderson
Length: 9 hours 40 minutes
Publisher: Post Hypnotic Press⎮2016
Genre: Humor, Memoir
The bestselling author of the American humor classic The Egg and I continues the adventure with this collection of tales about life on the fringe of the Western wilderness. Writing in the 1950s, Betty MacDonald, sophisticated and urbane, captivated readers with her observations about raising a family on an island in Puget Sound. As usual, humorist MacDonald is her own favorite target. She manages to get herself into scrapes with washing machines set adrift in rowboats, used cars, and a $25 Turkey Squasher. And then there’s the scariest aspect of island life — teenaged children.
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Betty Bard MacDonald (1907–1958), the best-selling author of The Egg and I and the classic Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle children’s books, burst onto the literary scene shortly after the end of World War II. Readers embraced her memoir of her years as a young bride operating a chicken ranch on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, andThe Egg and I sold its first million copies in less than a year. The public was drawn to MacDonald’s vivacity, her offbeat humor, and her irreverent take on life. In 1947, the book was made into a movie starring Fred MacMurray and Claudette Colbert, and spawned a series of films featuring MacDonald’s Ma and Pa Kettle characters.
MacDonald followed up the success of The Egg and I with the creation of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, a magical woman who cures children of their bad habits, and with three additional memoirs: The Plague and I (chronicling her time in a tuberculosis sanitarium just outside Seattle), Anybody Can Do Anything (recounting her madcap attempts to find work during the Great Depression), and Onions in the Stew (about her life raising two teenage daughters on Vashon Island).
Author Paula Becker was granted full access to Betty MacDonald’s archives, including materials never before seen by any researcher. Looking for Betty MacDonald, the first official biography of this endearing Northwest storyteller, reveals the story behind the memoirs and the difference between the real Betty MacDonald and her literary persona.
Heather Henderson is a voice actress and audiobook narrator with a 20-year career in literary and performing arts. Her narrations include the NYT bestseller (now also a feature film) Brain on Fire; and Sharon Creech’s The Boy on the Porch, which won her an Earphones award and was named one of the Best Children’s Audiobooks for 2013 by Audiofile Magazine. She earned her Doctor of Fine Arts degree at the Yale School of Drama, and is co-curator of AudioEloquence.com, a pronunciation research site for the audiobook industry. In 2015, Heather was a finalist for a Voice Arts Award (Outstanding Narration, Audiobook Classics), for her narration of Betty MacDonald’s The Egg and I.
Click to listen to an excerpt of Onions In the Stew
This is the fourth Betty book I have listened to, by now I have come to expect a level of sardonic humour along with a big dollop of common sense. If any books can guarantee to put life into perspective if you are having a ‘down’ day then it has to be a ‘Betty MacDonald’. She was an absolute trooper of her day who stood no nonsense from anybody but at the same time usually averted a crisis somehow with her wit.
Life has moved on now and her and her husband and two growing teenage girls are living on Vashon Island, off of Seattle. So you can see where this story may lead, how to survive in the 1940/50’s with limited facilities (although I’m sure USA was far more advanced than UK) money being tight, concocting recipes from local sea food, gathering driftwood for the fire etc .. it sounds idyllic but was obviously tough.
Betty still tries to find employment wherever she can, family life is fraught at times but beneath it all you get a feeling of genuine affection. As I have stated previously you have to remember these books were set/written a long time ago so there are many things which may not meet the realms of acceptance in this day and age of political correctness. The things they did without a second thought like smoking constantly, including the kids, the reaction to ‘foreigners’ but this is how it was in those days.
I find them a fascinating account of ‘real’ life from that era of a normal hard-working family trying to succeed or at best survive with all the associated problems they face. Admittedly I preferred the earlier books in the series but this one still stands the test of time.
The narrator as usual has a strong comforting voice, speaks clearly and makes it an enjoyable experience to listen to .. I will miss her as much as Betty! Having said that I have one more book lined up to enjoy!
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