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Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite
“After she died, a friend said, “Phoebe could always make something out of nothing. Phoebe spent most of her life making something out of nothing but always with a great big laugh.” That’s a powerful statement alluding to the pioneer resilience to work hard, love hard and laugh hard, all while eking out a meager living. It’s also a significant inheritance for those who are here today – how well do we aspire to the survival instincts and the simple pleasures of life like our ancestors? We are a result of who our parents were, of our grandparents, and all other family members who came and went in our lives. Telling stories about our ancestors is making our own lives really come alive.
Carol A. Schauer’s memoir, My Mother Once Told Me…, is a collection of stories of three generations of women: the author, her mother, and her grandmother, as well as stories of other women connected to the family. The author has inherited so much from both her mother and grandmother, but perhaps the most poignant and powerful gift she received was from her mother: the gift of writing, of telling a good story. Carol admits that she was always one to chatter; she had what is often described as ‘the gift of the gab.’ In fact, her report cards frequently said, “Talks too much to her neighbors.” None of the women became famous, though Carol’s mother was a writer and a reporter for the local newspaper. But their stories are significant in their revelations of how each and every one of us is tied to our roots, whatever they might be, and we benefit from and embrace what we learn from those who went before us. Carol’s stories are compassionate, generous, sometimes funny, often sad – indeed all the human emotions possible. The message is clear, even if the characters aren’t famous: we have to live our lives to the fullest, no matter what fate deals out and we must learn from both our past and the past of our ancestors to become the best person we can be. Like my mother always said, “Life is hard work,” but, as Carol’s mother and grandmother proved, it was hard work that made it worth living. Beautifully told.