A memoir that recounts a young girl’s childhood adventures on the American prairie and her lifelong Christian faith.
Yexley (Not My Plan, 2015) pens a charming remembrance of growing up on a farm in Columbia, South Dakota, in the 1950s and ’60s, surrounded by loving family members and farm animals, and expressions of unwavering religious commitment. She writes about her early years of going to school, caring for animals, going on family drives through Nevada and California, and taking piano and cornet lessons; she also describes how the Vietnam War affected her small, intimate community. One particularly endearing chapter tells the story of the young author helping her grandmother take care of chickens, and in doing so, learning about responsibility, hard work, and finding lessons in her mistakes. She also learned about “dressing” chickens—preparing them for killing—and recalls the sadness of witnessing her first butchering. From a young age, she was protective of her younger sister, Yvonne, admired her older brother, Ray, and was fascinated by her grandparents’ many hobbies. Christianity plays a major part in many vignettes and it’s shown to have been an important component of her family’s daily struggles and successes. At the end of each chapter, she includes “Lessons Learned” and “Questions to Ponder,” such as “How do you overcome your fear?” and “Have you ever lost a pet?” However, these lessons and questions can sometimes feel reminiscent of those in children’s books. Overall, the memoir is overwhelmingly positive in tone. As a result, however, Yexley seems to gloss over some of the more serious moments of her childhood; for example, she only gently alludes to corporal punishment, poverty, and the isolation of middle America. She also has only complimentary things to say about each of her family members, and these purely positive descriptions render them somewhat colorless as characters. (Photos of the author’s family members are included throughout.)
A pleasant, if sometimes-monotonous, account that may appeal most to younger readers.