Growing Up Tough

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
293 Pages
Reviewed on 10/19/2023
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Roderick Saxey is a semi-retired physician living in eastern Washington. His interests include Science, History, Archaeology, Anthropology, Religion, Theater, Art, and much more. Early exposure to the classics led to an appreciation of Homer, Shakespeare, and Twain as well as more recent authors like Tolkien, Michener, and Heinlein. He loves classic plays and movies, especially comedies, musicals and westerns.

Saxey's experience as a missionary to Austria for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints greatly influenced and guided the trajectory of his life and thought. He obtained degrees from Brigham Young University and George Washington University Medical School, served 12 years in the United States Air Force, and worked for many years in various medical practices, hospitals, and service settings. But of all places he has been and things he has done, being at home with family remains the best. He and his wife, Lisa, have six children, ten grandchildren, and four dogs.

Other book-length publications, available at Amazon:

He occasionally blogs at

    Book Review

Reviewed by Pikasho Deka for Readers' Favorite

Based on the experiences of his father, Growing Up Tough is a coming-of-age novel by Roderick Saxey. The story is set between the early 1920s and 30s, the time of the Great Depression, when America underwent revolutionary cultural, economic, and societal changes. Shirley Edwin Taylor's father moved their family from Provo to Price, Utah. A curious young boy, Eddie soon acclimatizes himself with the town and its inhabitants, making friends with two like-minded young boys named Gus and Frank. At a young age, the boys lived through the coal miners' protest, witnessed the hate crimes committed by the local KKK chapter, and did their part to oppose them and develop a fierce rivalry with the neighboring Eight Street Gang in town.

Growing Up Tough is a slice-of-life tale that covers a monumental era of American history in the 20th century. Full of heart and humor, Roderick Saxey's engaging story showcases a young boy's transition from teenage years to adulthood during the Great Depression, touching upon some vital social issues still relevant today. Saxey's narrative is well-paced and sheds light on topics such as racism, classism, and bigotry, as seen through the eyes of a teenager trying to navigate life in an era of extraordinary change. The characters act and talk like real people, and this helps the reader relate to their circumstances. There is something bittersweet and nostalgic about Saxey's coming-of-age story that you can't help but love. Highly recommended.

Grant Leishman

Growing Up Tough by Roderick Saxey is a heartwarming story about a young boy growing up in a small mining community in Price, Utah, in the 1920s. With the name Shirley Edwin Taylor, and born on April Fool's Day, Eddie had to learn to defend himself early on in life. Of German extraction and members of the Church of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), Utah was a logical place for the Taylor family to settle. Price was a coal mining town dominated by Greek and Italian immigrants. Eager to find new friends, Eddie befriends a Greek brother and sister and an Italian boy. Together they form a gang to protect themselves from others in Price's ethnically territorial neighborhoods. With the rising Ku Klux Klan and anti-immigrant tension, the scene was set for confrontation and dissension, especially with the Great Depression looming. As Eddie matures, he learns many lessons from his gang mates, teachers, brothers, sister, parents, and grandparents. Despite the period of change the country undergoes, there is much to be enjoyed and savored growing up in rural, small-town America.

Growing Up Tough is based on stories told to Saxey by his father of his childhood growing up in Price, Utah, and this gives them a real sense of place and genuineness. I particularly appreciated the breadth of the narrative, which took Eddie from a preschooler to adolescence and into adulthood. The pranks and tricks Eddie and his friends got into are a welcome reminder that children never change, and kids will always be kids. Told from Eddie’s perspective, the actions and reactions of the adults in his world were often perplexing to him but, blessed with an inquiring mind, Eddie was always determined to figure them out. This is more than a childhood story of a young boy’s exploits; it is a social commentary about growing up, taking responsibility, and living a life to be proud of, and one that makes those who love and care about you proud also. I enjoyed this read immensely and can highly recommend it.

Rich Follett

Growing Up Tough by Roderick Saxey offers a view of life in Price, Utah, during the years leading up to and including the beginning of the Great Depression. The protagonist, Shirley Edwin “Eddie” Taylor, is a sensitive, highly intelligent boy trying to comprehend a world changing rapidly around him and adapting to difficult realities as he matures into a capable and wise young man. Written in the third person, the narration is so homespun and accessible that readers will feel like Eddie tells the story. Growing Up Tough is touching and engaging against the backdrop of a time when life was simpler and slower-paced, and births, deaths, disasters, and day-to-day challenges register more profoundly than in the modern age and leave a significant emotional imprint.

The characters in Growing Up Tough are described in crisp detail, with the required number of perfectly chosen words to render them vividly in the reader’s mind. Roderick Saxey’s writing style is personal and enthralling, with characters to care about and reflect upon long after the last page has been turned. Because the narrative is woven around actual events of the time in and around Price, Utah, Growing Up Tough has a pervasive air of authenticity that makes the characters and events seem immediate and familiar in ways fiction often fails to accomplish. Thoroughly enjoyable, Growing Up Tough is ideally suited to readers who wish to connect with compelling characters and natural history in one deeply human adventure.