The Summer of Ordinary Ways: A Memoir

The Summer of Ordinary Ways: A Memoir

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by Nicole Lea Helget
     
 

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Practicing baseball with Dad, then watching him go after a cow with a pitchfork in a fit of rage. Playing chicken on the county road with semi trucks full of hogs. Flirting with the milkman. Chasing with your sisters after Wreck and Bump, mangy mutts who prowl farmsteads killing chickens and drinking fuel oil. Dandelion wine. The ghost of a girl buried alive over a

Overview

Practicing baseball with Dad, then watching him go after a cow with a pitchfork in a fit of rage. Playing chicken on the county road with semi trucks full of hogs. Flirting with the milkman. Chasing with your sisters after Wreck and Bump, mangy mutts who prowl farmsteads killing chickens and drinking fuel oil. Dandelion wine. The ghost of a girl buried alive over a century ago. These unforgettable, sometimes hilarious images spill from a fierce and wondrous childhood into the pages of The Summer of Ordinary Ways.Praise for The Summer of Ordinary Ways:
"Helget's debut begins with a staggering example of her father's brutality, yet Helget refuses to succumb to a "woe is me" attitude, and she layers vignettes to create a lyrical story of growing up on a Minnesota farm in the 1980s, where her mother verges on insanity, her five unruly younger sisters get underfoot, and death is a familiar part of life. The memoir's charm lies in Helget's dulcet use of language; even as she describes the century-old death of a little girl accidentally buried alive, her words sing."--Publishers Weekly starred review "Beautifully crafted, each chapter a balanced and snug set piece with sentences as carefully constructed as a stone wall."--Kirkus Reviews "Helget breaks open the tough shell of family life to reveal a girlhood both tragic and lovely, with all its hidden violence, all its secret beauty."--Carolyn Parkhurst, author of The Dogs of Babel"Helget wrings intensity from the seemingly mundane--a family farm, the kitchen, a sleepy Midwestern town--to recreate a past that lives on somewhere between a dream and a nightmare. In The Summer of Ordinary Ways, every detail is authentic and resonant, every moment feels lived. Helget's debut is nothing short of remarkable."--Rosellen Brown, author of Tender Mercies "Marvelous, vibrant, and full of gritty energy, carrying the reader on a breathless ride across hills and valleys of pain, humor, and redemption."--Faith Sullivan, author of The Cape Ann"Written with blistering beauty, this fierce memoir is an elegy for broken spirits--human and animal--and a prayer for those able to face their past."--Bart Schneider, author of Beautiful Inez

Editorial Reviews

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Growing up, Nicole Helget's life was a lesson in contrasts: She'd watch through the steamy windows of the warm kitchen as the bitter Minnesota winters blanketed her family's farm, and learned to catch fly balls from the same man who felled his favorite cow in a macabre scene with a pitchfork. Likewise her memoir, The Summer of Ordinary Ways, is one of rare depth and intensity, a portrait of a family and a way of life that's deceptive in its simplicity. Peeling away layer upon layer of the seemingly mundane, Helget uncovers drama in the family routine as she explores a girlhood marked in equal parts by love and brutality.

Whether "Colie," as her family calls her, is flirting with the milkman or raising hell with her sisters, her life is circumscribed by the boundaries of home, family, and daily chores. But home is a small farm in a remote midwestern town, and her family is burdened with more than its share of pain and unhappiness. Toughened by farm work and a volatile father, Colie learns to navigate the minefields of home and adolescence with determination and grit and arrives, finally, at a hard-won self-assurance. Piercing in its truthfulness, Helget's is a wondrous memoir, a record both brave and revelatory that lingers in the minds of its readers long after the last page is turned. (Holiday 2005 Selection)
Publishers Weekly
Helget's debut begins with a staggering example of her father's brutality: he mercilessly beats a cow to death for not weaning her calf. Yet Helget refuses to succumb to a "woe is me" attitude, and she layers vignettes to create a lyrical story of growing up on a Minnesota farm in the 1980s, where her mother verges on insanity, her five unruly younger sisters get underfoot, and death is a familiar part of life. The memoir's charm lies in Helget's dulcet use of language; even as she describes the century-old death of a little girl accidentally buried alive, her words sing: "Colors explode behind her lids, the colors of poppies and apples and straw and cantaloupe and leaves and Monarchs and stars and sky. And yet... she struggles to open her eyes.... it's black where she is." The amalgamation of reminiscences appears random until the final piece, in which Helget weaves an account of her child self with that of her adult self, providing context for the previous memories. Pregnant and married at 19, lonely and isolated, Helget tantalizes with a brief peek at her adulthood, but it's enough, because the glimpses into her younger life so satisfyingly explain who she has become. (Oct.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Watching her father kill a dairy cow with a pitchfork is one of many memories Helget (winner, 2004 Speakeasy Prize for Prose) recalls in her first book, a memoir of her childhood. Readers will find her experiences growing up on a dairy farm the eldest of six girls a very humbling experience and will feel the children's pain as Helget recalls them watching their father come home drunk and in a rage, shoot all 13 of their puppies, and eventually leave them; and their mother always pregnant and angry and burning all of dad's things. Also scattered throughout the book are recipes for corn whiskey and dandelion and rhubarb wine. Though seemingly sad and absurd, this story revolving around Helget's childhood and eventually her dealings with her own family as an adult is actually very heartening. Recommended for all public libraries.-Tina Stepp, Henerson Cty. P.L., NC Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Memoir of a farm childhood too often buffeted by parental rage and melancholy. Born in 1976, first-time author Helget grew up in Sleepy Eye, Minn., a deeply parochial place where her family tended 80 acres. Her father was a reluctant farmer-he played Triple-A ball for five years before the Red Sox let him go in 1977-and her mother was a reluctant parent, despite bearing six daughters. They rode an emotional roller coaster: Dad would lose himself in fierce moods, at one point pitch-forking a cow to death when it would not leave her calf, another time striking his wife with a blazing hot pan; Mom would retreat into silent glooms and lock herself away, emerging only for Sunday church services. Yet Helget also depicts her father as "a man who can be so lovely sometimes that you and your sisters collect under the wonder of him" and writes with sympathy of the genes that held her mother captive. She carries those genes herself, the author finds. "We have a way of making a man love us and suffer him for doing it," she notes of herself and her sisters. "While we love our babies, we detest ourselves and wrestle against anything and everything to deny and prove it." Mercifully, Helget also tells stories of a different tone that let the reader catch a breath: One concerns Wreck and Bump, two lowly but ambitious mutts bent on fornication and chicken meat, drinking moonshine and motor oil. Most of the chapters, it must be admitted, are overcast with bleakness-what a wonder it is, then, that Helget's storytelling feels so fresh and vitalBeautifully crafted, each chapter a balanced and snug set piece with sentences as carefully constructed as a stone wall.
From the Publisher

“Helget wrings intensity from the seemingly mundane—a family farm, the kitchen, a sleepy Midwestern town—to recreate a past that lives on somewhere between a dream and a nightmare. In The Summer of Ordinary Ways, every detail is authentic and resonant, every moment feels lived. Helget’s debut is nothing short of remarkable.”
                                                                     —Rosellen Brown, author of Tender Mercies
 

“Marvelous, vibrant, and full of gritty energy, carrying the reader on a breathless ride across hills and valleys of pain, humor, and redemption.”
                                                                        —Faith Sullivan, author of The Cape Ann

“Written with blistering beauty, this fierce memoir is an elegy for broken spirits—human and animal—and a prayer for those able to face their past. ”
                                                                          —Bart Schneider, author of Beautiful Inez

"[Helget] absorbs the reader with a simple clarity that reminds us how much our own memories may be clouded by sentiment."—Minneapolis Star Tribune

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780873517010
Publisher:
Minnesota Historical Society Press
Publication date:
03/01/2007
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
182
Sales rank:
393,255
File size:
668 KB

Read an Excerpt

Stain You Red
(Summer 1983)

Dad crouched, slack knees to his chest, in front of the barn wall with his mitt and told me to pitch him a few. He punched a fist into his glove, pointed two fingers down, then opened his hand, wiped the sign away, and pointed just one finger down. A fastball.

"Put her right here," he said.

He had set down a beer can in front of him, home plate, and positioned a wooden bat in Annie Jo's hands, the fading name, William Helget, burned on the barrel of it. He pointed at a spot in the grass where she should stand and told her not to move, not to swing, and to hold the bat high. It almost toppled her.

"Choke up," he said.

I wound into a pitch and released the ball to him with all the force my fifty-pound frame could gather. The ball slapped his glove.

"Nice one."

He tossed it back in an easy way. I threw a few more. Strikes. Then a pitch missed, and flew up and outside the strike zone I'd mind -- outlined above the beer can, bending in on Annie Jo's body, but Dad caught it without compromising his stance, pulled it quick into the center of him.

"That's how you get the strikes called. The umps look to where the ball sits when they make the calls. It's the catcher's job to pull 'em in."

I know,

Dad. I know, too, Dad, Annie Jo said. I do, Dad, I know.

"You just hold that bat up, Annie-Goat. Nice and high so Colie doesn't hit your elbows. She's wild sometimes."

I threw again. Annie Jo swung and foul-tipped the ball back into a barn window.

"Goddamn it," Dad said. "I told you not to swing." He stood, cast down his glove and grabbed the bat from Annie Jo, who cowered beneath him. She was four.

He pointed at the window with the bat. "Do you know how many fucking flies are going to get in there? Do you? Put this shit away. Hurry up now. And quit your goddamned crying. I can't stand it. It goes right through me."

He lobbed the bat at her feet. She knew not to move.

"Colie, you pick up that glass there and dig in the wood pile. Find a piece of plywood to cover that window. Fuck. Goddamn it. Useless, completely useless."

He turned from us and headed for the barn.

Dad was thirty-one. He was tall and lean with Bohemian, colored dark with Sioux Indian from his mother Alvina's side -- a bunch of lost gypsies and buffalo eaters, he called them. His father, Leon Helget, was thick with German blood and passed on his tumbling speech and throaty voice to his seven sons, including Dad, who was just one up from the bottom, but bossy as an oldest child or an Indian chief. And that's the name Dad's brothers gave him -- Chief. Dad's long legs bowed at the knees from his years crouching behind home plate and against a cow's belly for the milking. He walked with his hands on his hips like he was operating those loose legs from there.

Dad said three major league teams scouted him his senior year of high school at Sleepy Eye St. Mary's. In 1972, two Boston Red Sox agents, sipping coffee and eating slices of schmeirkuchen, pushed a creased stack of papers across Grandma's kitchen table at Dad. He signed to a Triple A contract while Grandpa, who mostly spoke Low German, sat silent and crossed his arms tight against his overalls. Grandpa had a farm place and land ready for Dad, and he didn't see the sense of his son running all over God's creation when there were perfectly good ballparks around here. But Grandma had warned him to keep his mouth shut and told him that baseball was Dad's chance.

You're an old fool, Grandma said, and I don't like that goat language in this house. Goat-herders, that's where you come from.

Goddamn gypsy, Grandpa spat.

Dad signed the contract and prepared to leave the following winter for spring training. He said no to the Cincinnati Reds and the Minnesota Twins and proposed to his girlfriend, Marie, after she graduated from high school, and in their Sleepy Eye Herald Dispatch wedding announcement it said, Marie Haala was Homecoming Queen at Sleepy Eye St. Mary's and William Helget catches for the Boston Red Sox organization, which is currently in spring training in Winter Haven, Florida. The couple will reside there.

Dad and Mom lived in Winter Haven while Dad practiced, played, and traveled with the team. Mom hated the heat and the cockroaches and the wives of the other players. A year into their marriage and Dad's baseball career, the doctors induced a labor and delivered Mom of a dead baby, which they whisked quickly away. Mom never thought to ask the sex of it, though Dad always said it was a son and his name would have been Nicholas because he liked the way "Nick" sounded over the loud speaker of a ball field. Nick Helget.

When she became pregnant with me, Mom insisted she be near her family in Minnesota. Grandpa Helget readied the farm place and Mom moved onto it and waited for Dad. She had me in March of 1976 and Dad made it to my birth but left the next day to go back to spring training. Grandma Helget said wives should be with their husbands, said the farm place could wait. She packed up Mom and me and drove us back to Florida, back to the heat and the cockroaches and the other player's wives and stayed with us until we were settled.

The Red Sox released Dad in 1977. They said he couldn't hit, though they liked that he was a switcher. They said his knees were bound to give soon. They patted him on the back and said he called good pitches, said they liked the way he signaled the outfielders, too. They liked how he knew which way the ball was going if the batter got a hold of it. Amazing. You've got good instinct for baseball, son. You should go home and coach your little girl's softball team when the time comes. You can turn in your uniform and keys at the field house. Here's your commemorative bat. Isn't that nice? It's got your name burned in it. Cost the outfit a buck or two. Keep the cap and send us your new address, why don't you. Keep in touch.

When each of their seven sons married, Grandpa and Grandma Helget gave the new couple a homestead with a house and outbuildings for livestock, grain, and machinery, eighty acres of tillable land for corn and soybeans, twenty cows, a bull, and a pick-up. After the Red Sox let Dad go, he came home to Minnesota to farm. Mom settled in. Dad woke in the dark mornings to the bellowing of cows playing chords in his ears. He knew the call of each one. Sometimes, Mom's noises from boiling water to heat the bottles for the five daughters that tagged after me roused Dad from his dreams of nick-of-time throw-outs at second and of blocking home plate from a barreling Pete Rose, who would never jar the ball loose from him the way he did from Ray Fosse in the 1970 All-Star game. Put it in your nut cup if you have to, goddamn it, but don't let 'em get the ball loose, he'd say to Fosse in those sleepy imaginings. He told Mom about the dreams over breakfast after the milking, after he romanced them and the game in his mind for hours in the barn with the cows, while pitching straw and cleaning gutters and salving infected teats and grinding corn and throwing hay bales down from the loft and spraying for the flies that bred, maggoted, morphed, and seemed to emerge from the very air in the barn, and while moving from cow to cow pumping milk from the beasts that trapped him in that place with their never-ending needs. Feeding, cleaning, doctoring, milking. A woman's job, really, he'd say of it, and Mom would look at him, set down the fry pan or a drooling baby and say he had to stop drinking brandy because that's when the dreams came racing and forced him fidgety and violent in his sleep, unsatisfied. You've got to be satisfied with what you've got, William. Thank God for it.

On Sundays, Dad caught for Stark, an amateur baseball team that played in the middle of a field, where lost baseballs, walloped over center field by local boys, became fertilizer for the worming roots of corn and soybeans. The red stitches wore away and surrendered the cow-hide leather, cotton string, wool winding, rubber covers, and cork centers to the black soil. Mom and my sisters and I watched the game from the grandstands with the other wives and children. Mom swapped recipes for jello salads and hot dish. I kept book. Dad wanted all the statistics. Errors. Sacrifices. Stolen bases. Runs batted in. Number of pitches thrown per inning. All of it. He went through the book at night after the evening milking and punch numbers into a calculator and scratch stats and strategies on the backs of envelopes, on our homework, in the white space of newspapers. He relived the game. "It's ninety percent mental, Colie. The game. It's ninety percent mental and ten percent physical," he'd say.

I know, Dad, but you're writing on my homework.

Dad gripped the chain fence behind me and called instructions. My thighs and hamstrings blazed with the strain of squatting under the weight of my body, the mask, the chest protector, and the leg guards. I had been holding out my arm receiving pitches into my catcher's mitt for an hour and we were only in the fourth inning. The Sleepy Eye St. Mary's varsity softball team pulled me up from B-squad in ninth grade to catch for Julie Schulmacher, who was fast, but wild. She was all over the place and threw more pitches per batter than I had ever seen.

Once Coach pulled me up there to catch, Dad came to all our practices and games. The older girls would toss sunflower seeds at him and grab for his cap. Jessie Heiderschiet, our senior right fielder, asked Dad about his stops at Meyer's Bar in Sleepy Eye where her mom worked and told the team about the time she had to give him a ride home because he was too drunk on Five Star to drive. They shushed and half-smiled when I came in earshot, but I knew all of it already and had heard other stories besides. Coach finally asked him to stop coming to practice, said he was a distraction. But Dad still stood behind home plate for every game I caught and called me back after each inning for pointers.

"Pull 'em in, Colie. Some of those are close. If you'd get 'em into you quicker, the ump would give her some of those outside ones," he said. Shit, Dad. She's everywhere. She's throwing like a million pitches an inning and I'm chasing all the fouls because she won't get off the mound. I'm tired and I'm on deck. I gotta get this stuff off.

"Well, pull it together. You look like hell back here, for Christ's sakes. It's a goddamned embarrassment."

I quit as catcher after that game even though it meant I went back to B-squad.

After I quit catching, Dad never came to another softball game. Not mine, or Annie Jo's, or Natty's, or Lila's, or Dakota's, or Mia's. Not one.

Meet the Author

Nicole Lea Helget studies and teaches at Minnesota State University-Mankato. She is the winner of the 2004 Speakeasy Prize for Prose. She is also the author of The Turtle Catcher.

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The Summer of Ordinary Ways: A Memoir 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 31 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Nicole's writing is good. However, I just want to give alittle constructive criticism. The book jumped around date-wise and was alittle confusing at times. She jumps from being a child to being older and burning up her father's belongings with her other siblings and mother ordering them to do it. Then she is a child again. It would have been an easier read if she did it in chronological order. Another problem I had is that the writer chose not to put quotes around people speaking. So at times, you didn't know if she was thinking it, or if she or someone else was speaking it. There is alot of cursing in the book as well, so I wouldn't recommend if for children to read. Alot of reviewers are saying that this should be a 'fiction' book. Also, there have been several newspaper articles relative to the fact that this indeed was fabrication. This was coming from Nicole's 2 or her 5 sisters, her mother, her aunt & her ex-husband. If this was indeed a true non-fiction memoir, what I bought it for, it is a gut-wrenching recollection of her life. However, this is also NOT a book for an animal lover which I am. I actually wanted to put the book down in the beginning and not read the rest because she goes into detail how her father stabbed a cow to death with a pitchfork. It could have been easily done without the graphics because it made me ill to think, that if it was true, what that man did to that poor defenseless animal. And she also goes into detail about how her father shot to death a litter of puppies because her mother didn't want them around. Yes, he put an ad in the paper to give them away free. But if no one answered the ad, aren't there animal shelters in Minnesota? Why kill those innocent puppies? Again, if this is truly what happened, it is sad, and a shame that Nicole had to go through this in her young life. Her father was a cruel man and her family is better off that he left them, however hard it probably was on them. His presence was one of evil. Only an evil person does these things to animals. This day in age his butt would have been in jail for animal cruelty. He was a bitter man because he failed at going to the pros in baseball, and never had the son he wanted. So he treated his 6 daughters & wife with disrespect and ultimately betrayal. I hate to be so critical of Nicole's work. It was written well, just very graphic at points. I could have been spared the details of the animal slayings and still gotten the same effect with her book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am not reviewing this book, but after reading the other reviews I wonder why this author, who has such ability, writes such horrible things. I wanted to read her book STILLWATER but some of it was so gross and crude I could not...Author, please write something leaving out such disgusting images. Your writing is so good without them.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am also from Sleepy Eye and knew of the Helget family. I first heard of this book earlier this month when I returned to MN after being gone for 20 years. This life does exist in SE, secrets are kept and abuse is prelevent. Farming is a hard way of life, but it teaches us 'farm kids' to be tough and to have a good work ethic. I admire Nicole's bravery for writing this book and knowing the effect it would have on her family and the community. However, I went to school with her exhusband and I remember him as a nice guy. He didn't deserve to be mentioned in this manner and I feel for the effects that this publication has on their children.
Guest More than 1 year ago
There is nothing ordinary about this memoir as I found it sad and horrifying. I felt ill after reading the passages regarding the cow and the puppies. While the book is put together creatively I found some of the sentences overly long and that took away from the point the author was trying to convey. Growing up in Minnesota I can relate to some of the mannerisms of some of the characters..I hope the author found peace in writing this and I look forward to seeing her next work.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love it when people get hung up on true vs. not true. Everyone's reality is a little different. The beauty of a memoir is that it's the author's turn to tell the story the way he or she remembers it. For example, the way that I remember certain things from my childhood is different that things that my brother remembers. I think that is important for folks to keep in mind as they decide whether or not to read the book and whether or not they believe the events to be true. I applaud Nicole for her courage to write and publish this book. It's not easy to share your realities when you know that it may hurt others to see it in writing. To the critics who sniff at a 25 year old's 'right' or even ability to write a memoir, I say they have an unfortunate and perhaps skewed view. Why should one be required to be of middle or advanced age to have something interesting to share with an audience?? Some people live more life in five years than some live in two decades. Nicole (and other writers like her) should not be held back because they aren't old enough to write a memoir. Who determines what's old enough anyway? Would this book be any more valid if she decided to wait until she was fifty five to publish it? I would venture not. As for the writing style and mechanics, I enjoyed it very much. The fact that the chapters jumped around through time leant it a little dream like quality and was a stream of consciousness that is more reflective of how humans really do recall memories. I know that I don't always recall things in a strict chronological order. That all the events take place in the summers is one nice common thread that helps weave the chapters together. I look forward to more works from this author.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ever since the 'scandal' regarding James Frey and fact or fiction novel 'A Million Little Pieces' caused such a ruckus, writers who dare to attach the term 'memoir' to their books are under fire. There is something wrong in the attitude of the country when readers and PR people and talk show hosts take such umbrage with writing. Where is freedom of speech? Frightening. It matters very little whether Nicole Lea Helget has written a memoir or a novel in her hugely satisfying THE SUMMER OF ORDINARY WAYS. What does matter is that here is a debut novel with a writing style that is as fine many of our established artists. The book is episodic in that Helget divides her chapters into summers that range from 1982. 1983, 1984, 1985, 1988 to 1993 and in no particular order. What Helget explores is a Minnesota family fathered by a frustrated sports hero stuck with a moody wife and a gaggle of daughters, the eldest of whom is expected to fall into line as the man of the family. This family has problems and disintegrates as a unit, but not until we hear all the reasons driving the various bizarre behaviors that sound all too familiar to family life today. But from summer to summer Helget isolates some of the most interesting stories of growing up, from summer camp under Catholic sponsorship, the coming of age of girls and their friends, infatuation with the milkman, the backstage breweries that flavor the countryside, tales of child ghosts supposedly returned from old times of being buried alive (!), and ultimately the arrival of the narrator reliving her childhood as she discovers the pregnancies and the stresses of marriage from the first person singular, somehow placing the whole of her recall of growing up into perspective.Helget's language is rich and visceral on some pages and inordinately fine and poetic on others. Describing the ghost of Annie Mary: 'The foxtails, those long summertime grasses that take over the ditches and lean toward the road as if to pass gossip, sway with the swirl of her dress, and her long hair whips in the wind. At night she cries because of the dark. She never liked the dark. And to hear her is worse than seeing her. That's what the neighbors say.' And when our narrator is pregnant: 'The first hint of a baby in your nineteen-year-old belly comes as a memory of yourself as a girl hiding behind the house, picking soft clumps of soil from beneath the patch of lilies of the valley and placing them under your tongue, sucking the water and mineral and blood from the dirt. This baby, this daughter, in your stomach requires more energy than you have, and so the cravings for the earth on your tongue begin again.' It seems that some readers, especially those fellow Minnesotans who take exception with the veracity of Helget's writings, forget that even autobiographies are remembered 'truths', that life modulates perceptions and memories, and in the hands of a poet supply fodder for rich and eloquent writing. Nicole Lea Helget has the gift. Highly Recommended reading. Just think of it as a novel! Grady Harp
Guest More than 1 year ago
Whether the discussion is about the truth of this book or its legitimacy as a memoir, the base is the writing. In my opinion, the writing wasn't compelling enough to make me turn the pages. 'Colie' has distanced herself so far from the story that it creates an artificial distance with the reader, a 'fantasy world' where it does not matter whether it's truth or reality. But because of this psychic dissonance, it is impossible to feel sympathetic for the 'Colie' character, or even interested. The word choices are low-brow and farm-fresh, manipulated to the point of being caricatures of the characters. The farmers pick at overalls, the children are barefoot and dirty. Cliche central, which is why reading this oft-hyped book became a forced effort of leisure.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Much attention has been given to this book recently because of the local debate over whether this is truly a work of nonfiction. And I think that's sad, because the spotlight should be shining on the book's beautiful prose and the care Helget has taken with her craft. Often reading like an extended poem, the book paints a vivid, accurate picture of life in rural southern Minnesota -- a land cloaked in corn and soybean fields, dairy farms, strict religious codes, unbending traditions, strong work ethics, and plenty of secrets. Helget's outstanding descriptive passages will turn many fellow writers green with envy. However, there were places, primarily early in the book, where I wish Helget had let a little air in and opted for a more straightforward prose instead of the densely packed poetic language that made for some difficult reading. I like writing to challenge me, but I found some of Helget's prose exhausting. For me, the stories in which her parents played minor roles (or no roles at all) were the sweetest and most engaging, because unfortunately, I didn't care about either one. I don't know whether that's a flaw in Helget's writing or a flaw in the real-life people about whom she's writing. All in all, this book is a lyrical treat and well worth reading.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book would make a great alternative to fire wood. The way this book portrayed cruelty to animals both horrified and disgusted me, and I was tempted to stop reading at several places in the book. I hope to God that this book is basically fiction as many claim because the very thought that anyone would abuse animals in this way (much less any way) just sickens me. If this book is true, as Nicole Helget claims, then she -along with her family- is absolutely evil. I am a firm believer in karma and I believe that you will eventually get what you deserve.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It would be better sold as fiction. It was confusing at times and not really worth my $15. I'm confused as to all the hype I've read probably 20 others just like this. As someone who is close to community also, not all of us believe it is reality. Most that do are those that like the next great piece of gossip.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I heard Nicole Helget read on Saturday night as part of her book tour. I found her work to be entertaining and highly accessible and would recommend her work to anyone who is interested in good writing and interesting story. I'm looking forward to her next book be it fiction or nonfiction. She's going to be one of Minnesota's primier writers and perhaps beyond that. Good writing is good writing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was suggested to me by my family members who live in this town. While the families mentioned are upset by this it is quite clear to the town that this is not fiction. All these events did happen. However, no one can attest to the actual conversations that took place 20 years ago, but the mood and portraly are accurate. I can personally vouch for that on one individual. It is quite easy to concentrate on how she discribes her family and only that. She did this to convey her main purpose and that is the harsh and tragic circumstances and conditions that are the Ordinary Ways. This is a very sad story but her words make it uplifting.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was thoroughly disappointed in Helget's memoir. I realize that many of the things portrayed in the book are common things that happen on farm life. However, Helget blows these things out of proportion. There are no feel good moments anywhere in this book so unless your in the mood for a bleak and depressing memoir, look elsewhere this holiday season.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I heard about this book recently because of an article in my hometown newspaper. I had to do a double take as I recognized the name of the author. My curiosity was spiked as I had gone to school with this person from preschool through high school graduation. I played on the same softball team, was involved in 4-H, etc. This is a very small town where everyone knows everyone elses business and there still is great importance placed upon family roots. I had some serious misgivings before reading it. A 'Woe is Me' story from the most perfect person just didn't seem to fit the picture. This person was the teacher's pet...model gorgeous,smart enough to work for NASA (yes I remember her 4th grade astronaut speech), naturally gifted at sports, and a born leader. She also lacked the egotistical attitude of most of the popular girls. While our school was dominated by cliques, she rose above them. I knew her entire family and extended relation. Sure there were rumors floating around town. I was just never the type to pay much attention to them. I didn't have the perfect household either, so I could relate. As a child you can't control much of anything, so you basically have to live life as its thrown at you and hopefully learn something along the way. I cannot personally attest to all the incidents in her home, but the rest I can verify as the absolute truth. Some of the names were changed, but those of us who were here know exactly who she was talking about. Her descriptions couldn't have been more accurate. To someone who is not familiar with community, it may seem fictitious. There are many secrets embedded in this town and I admire her courage in being able to reveal them to the public. This is a rural community and farming isn't an easy vocation. Tempers flare and mistakes are made. No one guaranteed us a perfect world. As for literary prose, I found it a bit hard to follow at times. It skipped around like a time machine with a broken forward/reverse button. It did seem like she wsa rambling in a few sections. I will give it merit for being highly descriptive. Many of those memories had been pushed back to the recesses of my subconscious brain.
Guest More than 1 year ago
for Nicole Lea Helget. A fabulous read from an enchanting new author. Her words do, indeed, sing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The work reads like fiction and even then fiction that's not done very well. I wouldn't waste my money again.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Every farm kid has had experiences like Nicole Helget's, but most couldn't tell the stories this well. We also all grew up with family and community secrets. This will be my gift book of choice to many friends and relatives for Christmas. It's that haunting, that vivid, that good of a read. It stays with you long after you've turned the last page.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After reading a review of this memoir in People magazine, I was excited if for no other reason that it was a story to depict rural Minnesota. She never quite drew me in and that's what I was hoping for chapter after chapter. Maybe all the animal killings were enough to turn my stomach and be a distraction. I found her writing style to be hard to follow and read. Regardless of how much I spent, in my eyes, it wasn't worth the money.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Bought it after reading about it in People. I'm frustrated that it isn't labeled fiction, or at least clarified as 'some things have been rewritten because I was too young to remember the exact conversation.' But if it were ficiton, I wouldn't have liked it either. It seemed like a lot of rambling and woe-is-me rather than a message of deliverance. I hope she doesn't care what her family thinks.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Like other readers, I thought this was going to be a memoir, but it was hard to believe that a child could remember such incidents and dialogue with crystal clear clarity. While the writing is simplistic, it charms, so perhaps fiction is Helget's forte?
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be a very amazing, stimulating book. It is extremely apparent from reading this book that this author, Nicole Helget, is a very talented author on the rise. She writes in such a pure, flowing way that you are compelled to keep turning the pages. With that, and her fascinating content of her summers, it is a must read. I am glad to see someone use their freedom of speech and not be afraid to tell it how it is. Helget is truely a remarkable writer. The only problem i had with the book is that i wish it would have been longer. :)
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was disheartened to read a 'memoir' of this nature. I was expecting a portrayal of rural Minnesota and, instead, stumbled upon a 'story' filled with bleakness and myths. Although the writing is noteworthy, I felt that the stories told were nothing more than the writers imagination. It is hard to believe that such detailed dialogue could be recalled by a nine year old child. The only thing the readers are left with is a pity for the author for the bitterness that is seeped between the pages. Overall, a waste of money and talent.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is shocking and wonderful. I couldn't put it down. The author makes the stories come alive. Much of the time I felt as though I were right there with her. Her honesty is applaudable. I appreciated Helget giving me an inside view of her childhood. As an elementary teacher, I think this book will help me understand where my students may be coming from.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Having grown up in the same town as Helget, I find this memoir to be fabricated. I know her family and some of her sisters, and I have been around the family enough times to know that the way Helget portrays her mother in the book, as a depressed and crazy woman, is actually quite laughable. Helget's mother is a marvelous woman, who has a lot of respect in the community of Sleepy Eye. Also, many of the stories told in her 'memoir' seem to be embellished. Knowing some of Helget's sisters, I do not see the same trauma, Helget portrays in her book due to her family, as a driving force in their life. I was very dissappointed in this book.