06 August 2010

The Prize Winner of Defiance, OH: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less by Terry Ryan

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or LessThis is an excellent book. It is moving and inspiring. And it isn't about boxing, which is what came to mind when I first heard the title.

Originally my mother-in-law first recommended the book to me. I believe she must have come across it at their local library. She knew I would enjoy it.

The book, written by their daughter, explores Evelyn and Kelly Ryan's journey to set ten kids on the straight and narrow. Money was nothing if not tight. Kelly's path in life had been changed by a bad accident which fortunately didn't also take his life...only his dream. This threw him suddenly into the same old 9-5 routine as most other men in the town. It was depressing and uninspiring. Truly, he really only wanted to be a man and provide properly for his very large family. Ultimately, in the mire of the hand he'd been dealt, he squandered a lot of his income on booze to deaden the pain of it all.

And so how was Evelyn to make ends meet? Make them meet? It was constantly a struggle just to hold onto the pieces! The 60s was the pinnacle of advertising, in my opinion. Instead of today's ad agencies creating a jingle or catch-phrase, a company's advertising budget was used as prize money for whomever came up with the most creative submission to the slogan contests they created! The gist was to Mine the vast resources of a broad country filled with users of your product!

Evelyn was brilliant. She won prize after prize after prize; often just in the nick of time. Her money was what made those elusive ends meet.

Years after their deaths, their daughter Terry used the scraps of memories stored in Evelyn's desk to piece together the tale of their life. The book (and film) are peppered with so many delightful submissions that Evelyn wrote and won prizes for.

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio

Yes, it is also a film. One that I truly enjoy being lost in. The book and film really take a step inside the 1960s, as well as a family of 12. Julianne Moore stars as Evelyn and Woody Harrelson as Kelly Ryan.
It was released in the US in September of 2005. I think it was a bit of a sleeper at the box office but did meet with critical acclaim. I recently saw it on a list of something like "100 films you won't hear about but should". I was happy to see it included in the list since it is a favorite of mine.

As always, I heartily suggest reading the book first and then watching the film.
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