Thursday, March 16, 2017

Onions in the Stew ~ ~ ~ Audiobook Blog Tour, Review, & Giveaway!

Author: Betty MacDonald

Narrator: Heather Henderson

Length: 9 hours 40 minutes

Publisher: Post Hypnotic Press⎮2016

Genre: Humor, Memoir


The bestselling author of the American humor classic The Egg and I continues the adventure with this collection of tales about life on the fringe of the Western wilderness. Writing in the 1950s, Betty MacDonald, sophisticated and urbane, captivated readers with her observations about raising a family on an island in Puget Sound. As usual, humorist MacDonald is her own favorite target. She manages to get herself into scrapes with washing machines set adrift in rowboats, used cars, and a $25 Turkey Squasher. And then there's the scariest aspect of island life -- teenaged children.

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Betty Bard MacDonald (1907–1958), the best-selling author of The Egg and I and the classic Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle children’s books, burst onto the literary scene shortly after the end of World War II. Readers embraced her memoir of her years as a young bride operating a chicken ranch on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, andThe Egg and I sold its first million copies in less than a year. The public was drawn to MacDonald’s vivacity, her offbeat humor, and her irreverent take on life. In 1947, the book was made into a movie starring Fred MacMurray and Claudette Colbert, and spawned a series of films featuring MacDonald’s Ma and Pa Kettle characters.
MacDonald followed up the success of The Egg and I with the creation of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, a magical woman who cures children of their bad habits, and with three additional memoirs: The Plague and I (chronicling her time in a tuberculosis sanitarium just outside Seattle), Anybody Can Do Anything (recounting her madcap attempts to find work during the Great Depression), and Onions in the Stew (about her life raising two teenage daughters on Vashon Island).
Author Paula Becker was granted full access to Betty MacDonald’s archives, including materials never before seen by any researcher. Looking for Betty MacDonald, the first official biography of this endearing Northwest storyteller, reveals the story behind the memoirs and the difference between the real Betty MacDonald and her literary persona.

Heather Henderson is a voice actress and audiobook narrator with a 20-year career in literary and performing arts. Her narrations include the NYT bestseller (now also a feature film) Brain on Fire; and Sharon Creech’s The Boy on the Porch, which won her an Earphones award and was named one of the Best Children’s Audiobooks for 2013 by Audiofile Magazine. She earned her Doctor of Fine Arts degree at the Yale School of Drama, and is co-curator of, a pronunciation research site for the audiobook industry. In 2015, Heather was a finalist for a Voice Arts Award (Outstanding Narration, Audiobook Classics), for her narration of Betty MacDonald’s The Egg and I.


"From the water, Vashon looks like a stout gentleman taking a Sunday nap under a wooly dark green afghan. The afghan, obviously homemade,  is fringed on the edges, occasionally lumpy, eked out with odds  and ends of paler and darker wools, but very  ample so that it falls in thick folds to the water."

What a fabulous, descriptive first chapter of the book! Betty MacDonald knows how to pull readers right in to the setting, which in this memoir is primarily Vashon Island, off Puget Sound in Washington. In the first chapter alone, there were so many quotables I wanted to write down to remember -- since I was driving, I didn't (and hence, I don't remember them: the audio book curse) but trust me, MacDonald was an amazingly clever and talented writer.

One of the humorous things MacDonald does to illustrate an idea is to provide long, over-the-top, lists of examples to back up her points. As a result, there may be ten examples of types of berries that grow on Vashon island, eight examples of the businesses found in town, nine things a teenager won't eat, or eleven rules for meeting a realtor (see what I did there?) And the sarcasm just drips across the sentences. Narrator Heather Henderson is a master at conveying the sarcasm and some of the best parts are when Heather uses a chirpy voicing to convey when MacDonald is trying to sound optimistic. Some of the funniest parts (and ones I related to the most) came when she'd describe the vision versus the reality -- the idea of the family outing and how it would play out are charming, the realities. . . not so much. (Day one of a two week snow-in: charming. Every day after: not so much.)

"Then came adolescence and the birth of the willful deliberate bold faced lie."

And speaking of realities, it is such such a crack-up how she describes and illustrates teen angst and the teens-hate-everything phase of their lives when adults are too dumb, never know what's going on, and can't relate to the kids. Even with this being written in the 50s, much of the teen behavior rings true today. Again, the humor and familiarity shine through as a neighbor compliments MacDonald on her well-mannered, witty children who are so awful to their own parents. Particularly funny was going through "the lies" phase with MacDonald and her two teen daughters.  Teens are teens and have always been teens. Stereotypical? I certainly don't think so after raising five of my own.  (Side note:  on of MacDonald's daughters calls her Mommy and the other calls her Betty, and I still don't know why.  I need to read/listen to the first memoir, The Egg and I, and see if that mystery is solved there.)

As with all of MacDonald's memoirs thus far, she gives the readers snippets of the times, dropping prices for things to help with perspective. There are huge differences (the one dollar steak dinner, acceptable for teens to openly smoke), but some sad sameness as MacDonald is lamenting that women earned half the pay of men and weren't considered smart enough to do math on the job. Heather Henderson is appropriately snarky in the delivery and rightfully so. There are some cringe-worthy stereotypes and labels thrown about, and MacDonald is a bit blase when talking about everything from suicide and domestic abuse, to alcoholism and the Japanese internment camps . . . all were just glossed over topics, but again, a sign o' the times for when the book was written.

As with the other memoirs, the pairing of Betty MacDonald's words with Heather Henderson's narration is perfect.  Onions in the Stew is my favorite of the three memoirs (The Plague and I, Anybody Can Do Anything) I have read so far because it was the funniest but also I could relate to so much of it.  All of the characters are recognizable -- we all have had or known THAT child, neighbor, cousin, friend, or daughter's boyfriend.

Thank you to Audiobookworm Promotions and Post Hypnotic Press for providing me the download in exchange for my honest review -- the only kind I give. 

Onions In the Stew Giveaway #1

Onions In the Stew Giveaway #2

Onions In the Stew Giveaway #3

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