I wasn't familiar with author Ralph Moody, but when I saw a row of distinctive Bison Books' spines peeking out at me from my library's bookshelves I had to pull a few out and see what they were all about. A cursory glance at the book blurbs and it was Mary Emma & Company that I brought back to my desk--less with my lost in the stacks posts in mind than the fact that I liked the sound of the protagonist in the story. Also, another of the books has a Nebraska setting and I've been looking for just such books for a work-related project.
One of the quotes offers a tempting glimpse into this story; "reading his books is like returning to Grandmother's kitchen with the heavenly smell of sugar cookies escaping from the oven." Doesn't that just paint a pleasant picture in your mind--a happy, warm and fuzzy one, and I'm all for books that can do that. A sugar cookie of a book has kind of a nice ring to it. And I do love sugar cookies.
As it turns out Ralph Moody was quite a prolific writer. Born in New Hampshire but raised in Colorado, his father died young and the family returned to the East Coast to live. He eventually travelled back through the Midwest working in a variety of places to help support his family. Largely self-taught and with a lifelong interesting in learning, he reminds me of Louis L'Amour. Later in life he took a writing class which began his career as an author.
I don't normally read a lot of western (am thinking here in terms of locale-Western US) fiction, but I do like the sound of these books and decided it wasn't a good idea to start reading in the middle of a series of books which sound somewhat autobiographical. His family saga begins with Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers, which he published in 1950. The book covers the years 1906-1910 when his father took the family to Colorado. The book begins:
"I never really knew my Father very well till we moved to the ranch on the Fort-Logan-Morrison road, not far from Denver. That was just after my eighth birthday--right at the end of 1906. When we lived in East Rochester, New Hampshire, he worked in the woolen mill, but it wasn't good for his lungs. He was sick in bed the winter before we moved--the one after Hal was a year old."
The story continues through a successive seven books through the 1920s when Moody puts an end to his "roving" days (I think by that point he gets married). Mary Emma & Company is somewhere in the middle of the series of books and is about his widowed mother and their life in Massachusetts when Little Britches had to be the "man of the family". I think I'd definitely prefer to read them in order now that I think about it.
The books have been in print continuously since their initial publication, and reading through some of the Amazon reviews they do seem much loved. I'm not sure really that the books are indeed lost in the stacks, but as I have never come across them online it seems worth mentioning him as someone whose works are worth exploring. It would be fun to read them aloud to children or classroom setting (or to just read them on my own for that matter). I suspect some of you will recognize Ralph Moody or will have read his books. If so, what do you think, should I embark on the the epic journey with this family? I have an unusual fascination (maybe not so unusual) for Depression-era America, and these do sound like fun, comforting reads.