Friday, September 19, 2008

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio

A few years ago, a friend gave me this book for my birthday. "This is one of those encouraging books that just help keep you going," she said.

And she was right. The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less is truly a prize. So good, I just re-read it recently (by listening to my library's audio book, read by the author).

It is the true story, set in the 1950's and 60's, of a plucky, positive lady who, despite the obstacles of a large family and a husband who drinks up his salary, provides for her family in a most unusual way--by "contesting," or writing jingles, slogans and poems to advertise products, like the famous Burma Shave signs. This woman had a way with words (as well as twelve family members' names to use on different entries, increasing her odds). But it's still hard to believe, as the story unfolds, how many appliances, miscellany, cars and cash she won, sometimes at such opportune times that it seems likely that her Catholic faith was another factor in her favor.

It's also the story of a difficult marriage, in an era when women and children had few options, even when they were in danger of bodily harm. Despite her husband's unpredictable moods and paychecks, they have a cordial marriage and somehow manage to raise ten children in an intact family--no small feat even in ideal conditions--and most of those children go on to lasting marriages and impressive careers. This testimony renews one's faith in marriage--even imperfect marriage--and by comparison, most of us will realize we have little to complain about!

And that's the encouraging thing about this story. You can't help but feel, "If that woman could do what she did, then surely I can manage the small challenges in my marriage, in my budget, in my children, and in my house. How can I muster up that same kind of creativity, hope and positive thinking in my situation?"

As a Christian, I can't help but think that God helped this faithful woman to raise and provide for the children He gave her, even when their earthly father did not. The author only implies, at the very end, that God had anything to do with it--but that ending is well worth reading all the way to the end for, when the enormity of their mother's sacrifice becomes known to her children.

All in all--an unmistakable winner.


For other book reviews, visit Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books.

I noticed that there are plenty of used copies available through Amazon, some for as little as a penny plus shipping and handling. (Please consider entering through the portal in my sidebar.)

Also, has anyone seen the movie? I just discovered there was one made in 2005. Is it good?


Petunia said...

I like the movie but it takes a few liberties. It combines scenes and changes a few characters but it is good in its own right. "Sticks with the essence of the book" about describes it.

Rosa said...

I remember my mother telling me about a book she had read about a woman who provides for her family by entering contests, but she had forgotten the name of the book. Thank you; now I can read it for myself! =)

elaine@bloginmyeye said...

I loved this book. It's one of my favorites. It so reminds me of many of the frugal bloggers I currently read, who blog about freebies and freebates. There is much available today for creative homemakers on the bloggy frontier. Get busy, ladies.

stephseef said...

Jeanne - this one sounds great. I'll have to add it to the list..

got home from the hospital yesterday with our new 7 pound 11 oz baby boy. all is well - God is good - and I'm sore!

mama said...

Congrats Stephseef!! I don't know you, but my heart always gives a leap at another healthy baby joining us here!


I loved the book and the movie. Another book you might enjoy is "Ten Circles Upon the Pond" by Virginia Tranel. It's a biography about a mother of 10. I loved it! She is catholic and her faith is very evident throughout the book, but not in a preachy holier-than-thou sort of way. Just very down to earth. It's a quick read, and I highly recommend it if you liked "The Prizewinner".

Aiden said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
At A Hen's Pace said...

(Sorry folks--that was me, posting under a different family member's name, by accident.)

I emailed Stephanie back but will say publicly: Yay!! and Welcome to the new little--make that BIG--one!


Thanks so much for the recommendation--sounds like one I will really enjoy!


Islandsparrow said...

Hooray! I can get this book at our library :) Looking forward to reading it - thanks Jeanne.

Paula said...

I watched the movie and it was worth watching, but I would not necessarily spend money on it. You might be able to get it from you library (that is where I was able to rent it from). Enjoying your blog!!