Saturday, August 05, 2006

Mama's Bank Account

It's been awhile since I've done a book review, but Sherry at Semicolon has started a Saturday Review of Books, which gives me a great reason to write one!

Mama's Bank Account was given to me for my birthday by my friend Kay who has a knack for discovering the most delightful, inspiring "mom lit," I guess you'd call it. This was an old favorite of hers that she was afraid she'd already given me. It's a collection of short stories, written in the 1940's, about the author's family's immigrant experience, and especially how her "indomitable Norwegian-American matriarch" of a mother always makes the best of every situation. (The play, movie and long-running TV show I Remember Mama were based on this book.)

Kathryn Forbes is a master storyteller. Each chapter is a discrete whole that is part of a larger tale as well, and each story builds--often hilariously--to a heartwarming twist at the end. You begin to know it's coming, but you can't for the life of you figure out how in just three more paragraphs she's going to wrap up this comical situation and move you to tears...and then she does it again.

Highly recommended for moms because of its content and also its structure--it's easy to start and stop! (I savored this one slowly over several months though it's a quick read.) Also recommended for anyone of Scandinavian descent and those with an interest in the history of California (Mama fiercely loves her new home, San Francisco).

Homeschoolers, this collection would be a nice addition to a study on the immigrant experience at the turn of the century. I think girls especially would have a high interest in the three daughters' experience as outsiders at a girls' school, but according to L. Olfert, a reviewer on Amazon, boys like it too:

This is one of my favorite books to read aloud. I taught junior highers for many years and this was a book they loved! Many times I taught sisters and brothers in later years and they would invariably ask when I was going to read Mama's Bank Account. The story appeals to both boys and girls and though Mama is the central character, I appreciated the fact that Papa was a very strong, loving support to the family. After you have read the book, watch the video! It is one of the few books that made the transition to the screen and is delightful!


Ellen said...

If it's easy to start and stop, that might be right up my alley these days!


Loni said...

I had never heard of this book and found it and the movie in our local library and reserved both! Great review. I look forward to reading it!

Kathryn Judson said...

Thanks for the review. It definitely sounds like a sort of book I'd like.

If you'd like another Scandinavian immigrant book to try, Ole Rolvaag's semi-autobiographical novel The Third Life of Per Smevik is a great little book in its own way. For that matter, Prairie Cooks by Carrie Young, a collection of recipes and remembrances, isn't half bad.

Liquidoxology said...

Nice new template look! Is that green line through the picture intentional? Just wondering.

At A Hen's Pace said...


The Third Life... has been on our bookshelf for years, but neither of us has ever started it. Thanks for reminding me of it, if I can ever get into the mood!


Green line?? Oh no!! What browser are you using, BTW?

Sherry said...

I've heard of this book but never read it. It sounds as if I'll have to add it to the list.

I'm sorry the linky thing wasn't working, but thanks for leaving your book link anyway. I hope to get it working right by next week.