Al Michaud is a senior-something guy who has collected a vast number of memoirs, vignettes and period pieces about his childhood, or ours, during the Depression years, a time fading into charming, dusty oblivion as we embark on a new century. Building on real memories and casual research, he has, as writers do, pulled things together.
Michaud has an eye for the smallest detail, a talent for describing what he sees or remembers, that will make the book a satisfying read for people who share his fascination with the good old days, "good old or not." It can lead to a sense of tedium, however, and this book is best read in short bursts over a long time. It would be a good trip read, or if you're like me and just want some occasional prose to soothe your mind, it could find a home on a nightstand or in your car. Each page or so is a new descriptive episode - so your mind can disengage quickly and you can save the next one for later. Perfect doctor's office waiting room material. Not that there's anything wrong with that!
Reminiscing is always a tricky endeavor - what strikes me as a highlight of some long-ago time may be to you too personal and boring. Michaud doesn't hold back - in this long stretch of a book he has told just about everything a person could care to know about growing up in Springdale, a real town in New England. He does this without idealizing, so cross off the word "inspirational" - this is plain, bare narrative.
We learn about chores like keeping the wood box full on the big iron stove, Simonizing a neighbor's Cadillac, and the odious task of making oleomargarine because butter was unavailable. The first swim of the spring in a nearby pond, the fear of the leather razor strop as a device of punishment, collecting the tin-lined paper from cigarette packets to sell to a roving tinker - all experiences now virtually unknown. In fact, modern parents would never let their kids indulge in hitchhiking for fun on the weekends, something a seventh-grader could do without fear in the days of yore.
Certain pictures from the caveman-like world of childhood strike a chord. Cavorting in the snow and ice and building a fire to bake - actually blacken - a carefully cozened store of potatoes and weenies, while a bottle (not a carton) of milk sits waiting in a bank of snow -- that's great kid stuff!
A Twig Grows in Springdale won't be everyone's cup of tea, as cup of tea it is - soothing, bland, and redolent of a quieter world. A relaxing read that takes you off the beaten, fancified track of modern word hacking and into a pre-angst time that we're all so sure was better because simpler.
This another Publishamerica production, allowing an otherwise unknown author a shot at the limelight. Kudos to Al Michaud for putting it together and Publishamerica for giving us the chance to enjoy it.