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by Irene McCoy

Pub Date: Aug. 7th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-64471-871-1
Publisher: Covenant Books

A debut memoir offers the reminiscences of a Hungarian American woman who grew up in the 1950s in an Indiana refinery town and later became a wanderer.

In this book, McCoy tells the story of her oddball family, including her dad, who made her stock the furnace coal bin. He gave her a hideous black rubber mask to wear when feeding the furnace. Dad also made her wait in the car while he stopped by a bar to quaff a beer or three. And he “didn’t like trees. Reliable providers of shade in the heat of the summer, they were not his friend in leaf-raking time.” While life as a teenager was challenging anywhere, “living in a Hungarian-American household had to be some kind of test,” the author asserts. There were “dozens of crocheted doilies lying on top of anything that didn’t move.” And Mom constantly stabbed at wayward rugs with her shoe heels. McCoy dreamed of escaping to college, an ambition Dad scorned. But she attained her dream only to come back from school for Thanksgiving to discover Dad had replaced the coal clunker with a gas-burning furnace. “Now? Unbelievable!” the author writes of Dad’s timing. “I looked at him, mumbled something, and headed back upstairs.” Chronicling her father’s dismissals, McCoy recounts her family’s foibles with wry wit, an eye for detail, and sharp prose that make the first part of this work an entertaining journey to this Midwest lakeshore town where the air stank of industry. But the book, which features black-and-white family photographs, loses some oomph in the second half. That part describes the author and her husband repeatedly crisscrossing the Atlantic because of his job as a journalist. (The memoir’s title, which some readers may find off-putting, comes from a remark made by McCoy’s father.) The incisive character development marking the first half gets a bit lost in the various details and logistics of moving a household.

An amusing, if uneven, account that features lively tales of a quirky Midwest family.