Calliope Press (2016)
Reviewed by Kristine Hall for Reader Views (06/16)
Article first published as Book Review: ‘Maude (1883-1993)’ by Mardo Williams on Blogcritics.
In “Maude (1883-1993),” author Mardo Williams, son of the subject of the book, provides a richly detailed account into not just one woman’s life, but into an entire family’s journey through the years. From farm life before electricity and running water all the way into modern times, Williams shares stories branching out from the family matriarch, Maude Allen Williams. Readers will be amazed by what the “simple life” of the early 1900s entailed, as pregnant, nineteen-year-old Maude gets married and becomes a farmer’s wife. Maude’s philosophy throughout her life was “If you can’t change it, don’t worry about it,” and it served her and her family well.
For much of the story, Maude is not so much the main character, but the ever-present constant around whom everything else happened. Equally important to the equation was Maude’s husband, Lee, and the life that they built around a marriage based on love, respect, and consideration — quite the anomaly for the times. Stories about Lee added levity and fun that elicited a few snorts and a giggle from this reader, but they also underscored the real difficulties of “simpler times.” As the couple added four children to their family, one after another, the stories of patience, kindness, and humor and taking life as it comes were endearing.
That those children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and even great-great-grandchildren continued to actively show love and support for Maude even as she passed her hundredth year is a real testimony to the base that was established by Lee and Maude in the early 1900s. This extended group of people always put family first, and in doing so not only survived but thrived through some of the country’s hardest times. They were always rich with what they had, and it was interesting that as farmers, they were largely unaffected by the nation’s shortages or surpluses.
Mardo Williams’s detailed accounts of his immediate and extended family’s lives, as well as the inclusion of facts and statistics of the times were amazing. Coupled with the numerous photographs — also amazing to have so many — it made an impact, connecting readers to this very real family. Readers will learn a lot, and if they are like me, will wish for a similar record of their own family histories, and are likely to even find some parallels.
The writing is well done and easy to read with just a handful of errors. This is a second edition with added information, but it was often repetitive and tedious when going into too many distant branches of the family tree and straying too far from Maude’s life. Readers may be disappointed that the book really isn’t about Maude. Though she is the cornerstone, readers really don’t ever get to truly know her.
Despite the title of the book setting up certain expectations (like a real reaction from Maude when she got electricity, a television, or saw a man go to the moon), Mardo Williams’s book “Maude (1883 – 1993)” is reading time well spent. Young and old, and everyone in between will benefit from a reminder of how life used to be in the not-so-long-ago past, and Maude’s example of patience and perseverance over her one hundred and ten years is one for the ages.