Monday, July 20, 2009

The Future Homemakers of America, by Laurie Graham

This book was the random book selection in Jenners' wonderful Take a Chance Challenge. Here were the rules for this particular task:

Go to the library. Position yourself in a section such as Fiction, Non-Fiction, Mystery, Children (whatever section you want). Then write down random directions for yourself (for example, third row, second shelf, fifth book from right). Follow your directions and see what book you find. Check that book out of the library, read it and then write about it. (If you prefer, you can do the same at a bookstore and buy the book!)

So I went to the library and wrote some directions for myself. I hope I remember what they were, but here goes:

"Fiction section, middle row, fourth shelf down, tenth book in."

Found myself in the Gs. I picked one book, but saw another one with a title that looked intriguing, so I thought, "What the hell? I'll read this one instead."

Kittens, I still feel that this was a random book selection! I didn't specifically search for this title!

So I borrowed this from la bibliotheque.

I took it home, and finished it in one setting.

This book spans about thirty years. It starts off in England, in 1952, with the death of King George VI. Peggy Dewey's husband, Vern is stationed at the Air Force base in Norfolk, and is raising their young daughter, Crystal. She has made friends with a few other Air Force wives:
  • Betty Gillis, a mother of two young daughters, who has become the model of the perfect housewife, decorating her little abode and constantly making dinners and dresses. She and Peggy are old high school friends. They really weren't friends in high school, though, since they had different interests at the time: Peggy was captain of the softball team, and Betty was an active member of the Future Homemakers of America.
  • Lois Moon is married to Herb, has a daughter named Sandie, and is not a very good housekeeper. She is known for her salty language and partying ways. She is known for her red hair and is always looking to socialize and have a good time. Lois is the comic relief of the group; at one point, one of the wives refers to her as the "Lois Moon Experience."
  • Audrey Redman is married to Lance, who is advancing very quickly in the Air Force. He eventually becomes Captain Redman. Audrey then becomes the model of the perfect military wife, becoming active in the Wives' Club and organizing many events for the families.
  • Gayle Jackson is the youngest in the group. She has recently married Okey, who is on her first assignment. She is obsessed with having a baby, but has also been hiding a drinking problem.
After the death of King George VI, Peggy, Lois, Betty, and Audrey drive off-base to see if they can see the king's funeral train. There they meet an Englishwoman named Kath Pharaoh, and they quickly become friends.

The whole book does not exclusively take place in England, or in the military. Throughout the years, the families receive new assignments and are stationed elsewhere. Some end up leaving the armed forces. There are a few births, deaths, career changes, marriages, and divorces. But what remains at the novel's core is the enduring friendship among these six women. Peggy is the central character; she narrates the story.

Throughout this book, the word "homemaker" keeps coming up. Each of the six women have different conceptions of what it means to actually be a homemaker. For Betty, it's staying home, raising her girls, and cooking and decorating. For Audrey, it's becoming an active military wife and assisting fellow Air Force spouses. For Lois and Peggy, it's trying to find a career--and an identity--separate from being an Air Force wife.

All six of the women portrayed in the novel face very different struggles as the years progress. Betty's home life is not as perfect as she lets the world see. Lois is determined to carve a life and career for herself. Gayle becomes a widow, and has difficulty setting up a life for herself as a single woman. Kath becomes a successful businesswoman, but almost ends up losing everything.

For a random book selection, this was excellent! I really enjoyed reading it! The chapters are all very brief, and Laurie Graham keeps the plot moving at a quick pace. You feel as if you're the seventh girlfriend in this little group of friends. She writes as if she's having a conversation with you.

This was an excellent book for reading on the beach, or on any lazy Sunday afternoon, especially when you've got a huge pitcher of iced tea--that's my experience with it!

In addition to this being the latest addition in my Take a Chance Challenge, this is also the latest edition in my 2009 100+ Reading Challenge and my 2009 Support Your Local Library Challenge. As always, click on the buttons in the right sidebar for all of the archived lists of my challenges!


blueviolet said...

Do you know how lucky you are? Can you imagine what you might have come up with?

You start and finish in one sitting do you do it?

JennyMac said...

Lois Moon sounds like a fun friend to have...LOL.

septembermom said...

I like a quick moving plot, especially in the summer! Great, thorough review! Sounds good.

Jenners said...

Sounds like a perfect summer read. You lucked out on this one, methinks! Just out of curiosity, what that the book you didn't choose? (I'm so nosy.)

Kari said...

Sounds like a very good book.

By the way, I love your blog title and blog header - too cute!