Friday, November 15, 2019

In Consideration of Small Things:
A Review of Mother Mason by Bess Streeter Aldrich

As part of my 101 Things in 1001 Days, my goal is to read at least 200 books in that time, and one that I set to work on immediately. Not that reading is something I struggle to find time for, but I do seldom document my reading or write reviews and I thought it might be fun to do so during this time. I may well read more than 200 books, in fact, I suspect that will be the case, but I set the goal at 200 just the same, because in light of the other 100 things on the list, I wanted to ensure its success!

Having come across a number of glowing reviews of the works of Bess Streeter Aldrich, I chose Mother Mason to begin, and I must say if her other books are equally as charming, I may well have come across another favorite author. I likewise chose it for it's ease of availability, The Internet Archives, of which I've grown quite fond!

Perhaps the main reason I loved this book so much was because throughout the time I read it, I kept envisioning the cast of characters from Meet Me In St. Louis, which is also a book and one I've never read. I'll be adding it to my list! The storylines, characters, and the settings are so similar, to the movie at least, that I'm not sure that I could ever believe that Tillie, the housemaid, was none other than Marjorie Main, which some of you may recognize from the delightful Ma and Pa Kettle series.

Written as a collection of intertwined short stories, Mother Mason recounts the life and adventures of the Mason family at the turn of the century. The series was originally written for The Ladies Home Journal during World War I. But when homesick American soldiers asked for more, Aldrich answered by making the family the subject of Mother Mason.

Fifty two year old Molly Mason, the motherly patriarch of the family, is a devoted banker's wife and mother of four. She serves as a member of the library board, the missionary society, and the women's club, not to mention her involvement in the many social gatherings and activities in which her children are actively engaged. If there is something going on this small midwestern town, you can rest assured that Molly has her hand in it. And then one day she's had enough, and takes a train bound for a few days of freedom, only to return to discover, much to her delight, that her family and the whole town just couldn't do it without her! The Mason's are a delightful family who support and encourage each other through trials and laughter, and mothers especially will relate to Mother Mason's full range of emotions as she loves and guides her children from childhood to adulthood.

One of my favorite chapters of the book involves Mother Mason's daughter in law, Marcia, who struggles with the responsibilities of being a young wife and mother and trying to maintain a clean and organized home. Mother Mason naturally comes to the rescue, and arranges for a few days of leisure that will make any young mother jealous for a mother-in-law with such heart! Father with his stoic personality, and Tillie the house maid with her quickwit and sarcasm, all make for a delightful, light hearted read. It is, in a word, charming! Aldrich is a talented writer, and anyone familiar with her other works will enjoy Mother Mason, and if you're new to her writing, like me, you'll be thirsting for more!

If you're not familiar with Aldrich, I found this publication, Bess Streeter Aldrich: A Literary Profile. It's a bit lengthy, but I did skim through it and found many similarities between Mother Mason and Aldrich's family. I also learned, that the movie Cheers For Miss Bishop, was based upon her book  Miss Bishop, which is also available to read at the Archives. You can watch the movie in its entirety by clicking the link above.

In doing a bit of perusing, as I am want to do, I came across Carol Miles Peterson's biographical work, Bess Street Aldrich: The Dreams Are All Real.  Here's the blurb from Amazon;

"Beloved by readers for decades, Bess Streeter Aldrich earned a national reputation with a long list of best-selling novels and with stories appearing in major magazines such as Ladies’ Home Journal, Harper’s Weekly, Colliers, McCalls, and The Saturday Evening Post. Her most famous novel, A Lantern in Her Hand, has remained a favorite since first published in 1928. 

 Carol Miles Petersen has thoroughly researched Aldrich, consulting Aldrich’s family, neighbors, and friends, poring over letters and newspapers, and reading Aldrich’s work again and again. In Bess Streeter Aldrich she reveals a woman as strong and substantial as Aldrich’s fictional heroines."

Aldrich's first published work was The Little House Next Door, which she wrote in 1911 for The Ladies Home Journal.  She received $175, which at the time must have seemed like a fortune, and continued to write for The Journal, as well as other publications such as McCall's, Harper's Weekly and The American Magazine.  I was able to find The Little House Next Door, included in The Collected Works 1907-1919 on Google Books. If you are interested in reading it, just scroll down to the table of contents until you see it listed and then click on the title and it will take you there. And another collection available from the Archives, is A Bess Streeter Aldrich Treasury. Included are two of her books, A Lantern in Her Hand, which I have learned was widely popular, and Miss Bishop, along with a number of short stories. I particularly enjoyed the last piece, titled I Remember.

Though this is the first of her works I've read, based upon other reviews I feel confident in recommending her works. And if you love endearing stories of families at the turn of the century, then you're sure to find Mother Mason delightful!

Up next, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, All of a Kind Family, and The Broken Way

Links in this post are non-affiliate, and provided for there readers pleasure.


pam said...

I have not read Mother Mason, but I see I will need to! My most favorite book I've read is also by Bess Streeter Aldrich, A Lantern I her Hand, which traces the story of a young bride moving out west with her husband and her sacrificial work of raising her family. It follows throughout her whole life. I think you'd really enjoy it.

Kimberly Lottman said...

I've added several of her books to my reading list now, including A Lantern in Her Hand! Let me know how you like Mother Mason.