An epic autobiography that’s part chronicle of American life gone-by and part diatribe against controlling men.
Caless begins her diary-style memoir with an account of life on a poultry farm during the Depression. She recalls a secure childhood with enough to eat and, eventually, modern conveniences–oil lamps give way to electric lights, a radio and, at long last, a refrigerator for her mother. All is not well on her homestead, however–her father molests and exposes himself to her, and her brother physically abuses her. Her parents spoil her brother but give her often-grueling jobs, even leaving her alone working their roadside stand at night. By the time she was 18, she’s had enough, and takes a bus to her boyfriend’s home in New Jersey. She’s out of the familial frying pan, but soon becomes infuriated by her new husband’s stingy and cruel ways. After he returns from World War II, she leaves him and her young son and aimlessly heads off to make a new life. For decades, she works at an insurance company and meets men at the Jersey Shore–some of whom are married and some aren’t. In her 50s, Caless is visited by a man from her past, but that relationship too has an unhappy ending. His story is woven in between the author’s interminable battles with lawyers and banks, after deaths in her family. Caless can be spunky and sparkling, and some of her stories are engrossing, notably those of reconciling with her son and caring for her dying mother. Her details about the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s are historical treasures. However, those attributes are ruined by her wordy, redundant writing. Caless belabors her points, repeating small establishing details constantly. As the massive page count indicates, she includes far too many long, extraneous stories, even devoting two pages to the story of French revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat. The author’s life story has compelling moments, but they are buried under an avalanche of unnecessary recollections.
A memoir begging for an editor.