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The Summer of Ordinary Ways: A Memoir

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Practicing baseball with Dad, then watching him go after a cow with a pitchfork in a fit of rage. Playing chicken on the county road with semi trucks full of hogs. Flirting with the milkman. Chasing with your sisters after Wreck and Bump, mangy mutts who prowl farmsteads killing chickens and drinking fuel oil. Dandelion wine. The ghost of a girl buried alive over a century Practicing baseball with Dad, then watching him go after a cow with a pitchfork in a fit of rage. Playing chicken on the county road with semi trucks full of hogs. Flirting with the milkman. Chasing with your sisters after Wreck and Bump, mangy mutts who prowl farmsteads killing chickens and drinking fuel oil. Dandelion wine. The ghost of a girl buried alive over a century ago. These unforgettable, sometimes hilarious images spill from a fierce and wondrous childhood into the pages of The Summer of Ordinary Ways.  “Helget wrings intensity from the seemingly mundane—a family farm, the kitchen, a sleepy Midwestern town—to recreate a past that lives on somewhere between a dream and a nightmare. In The Summer of Ordinary Ways, every detail is authentic and resonant, every moment feels lived. Helget’s debut is nothing short of remarkable.” —Rosellen Brown, author of Tender Mercies   “Marvelous, vibrant, and full of gritty energy, carrying the reader on a breathless ride across hills and valleys of pain, humor, and redemption.”—Faith Sullivan, author of The Cape Ann   “Written with blistering beauty, this fierce memoir is an elegy for broken spirits—human and animal—and a prayer for those able to face their past. ” —Bart Schneider, author of Beautiful Inez   “After Helget lulls you with the simplicity so often mistakenly ascribed to country life, she takes your breath away with the sheer power and poetry of her emotional integrity.”—Booklist (starred review)  “In precise, cadenced prose, this gifted young author has taken the messiest of lives and fashioned something beautiful.”—People magazine (Critic’s Choice, four stars) Nicole Lea Helget studies and teaches at Minnesota State University–Mankato. She is the winner of the 2004 Speakeasy Prize for Prose. This is her first book.


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Practicing baseball with Dad, then watching him go after a cow with a pitchfork in a fit of rage. Playing chicken on the county road with semi trucks full of hogs. Flirting with the milkman. Chasing with your sisters after Wreck and Bump, mangy mutts who prowl farmsteads killing chickens and drinking fuel oil. Dandelion wine. The ghost of a girl buried alive over a century Practicing baseball with Dad, then watching him go after a cow with a pitchfork in a fit of rage. Playing chicken on the county road with semi trucks full of hogs. Flirting with the milkman. Chasing with your sisters after Wreck and Bump, mangy mutts who prowl farmsteads killing chickens and drinking fuel oil. Dandelion wine. The ghost of a girl buried alive over a century ago. These unforgettable, sometimes hilarious images spill from a fierce and wondrous childhood into the pages of The Summer of Ordinary Ways.  “Helget wrings intensity from the seemingly mundane—a family farm, the kitchen, a sleepy Midwestern town—to recreate a past that lives on somewhere between a dream and a nightmare. In The Summer of Ordinary Ways, every detail is authentic and resonant, every moment feels lived. Helget’s debut is nothing short of remarkable.” —Rosellen Brown, author of Tender Mercies   “Marvelous, vibrant, and full of gritty energy, carrying the reader on a breathless ride across hills and valleys of pain, humor, and redemption.”—Faith Sullivan, author of The Cape Ann   “Written with blistering beauty, this fierce memoir is an elegy for broken spirits—human and animal—and a prayer for those able to face their past. ” —Bart Schneider, author of Beautiful Inez   “After Helget lulls you with the simplicity so often mistakenly ascribed to country life, she takes your breath away with the sheer power and poetry of her emotional integrity.”—Booklist (starred review)  “In precise, cadenced prose, this gifted young author has taken the messiest of lives and fashioned something beautiful.”—People magazine (Critic’s Choice, four stars) Nicole Lea Helget studies and teaches at Minnesota State University–Mankato. She is the winner of the 2004 Speakeasy Prize for Prose. This is her first book.

30 review for The Summer of Ordinary Ways: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Leah Beecher

    This was a completely random library pick up. I seriously grabbed it while searching for another memoir, because the title and cover struck my fancy. This memoir is what I would call a poetic memoir. {I seem to be reading an awful lot of "poetic" books lately...I kinda like that}. Yes, she had a dysfunctional childhood. (like most memoirs) The oldest of six girls, growing up on a dairy farm in the mid-um, west in the 1980s. It was told not completely in sequence, with just a dozen or so snippets of he This was a completely random library pick up. I seriously grabbed it while searching for another memoir, because the title and cover struck my fancy. This memoir is what I would call a poetic memoir. {I seem to be reading an awful lot of "poetic" books lately...I kinda like that}. Yes, she had a dysfunctional childhood. (like most memoirs) The oldest of six girls, growing up on a dairy farm in the mid-um, west in the 1980s. It was told not completely in sequence, with just a dozen or so snippets of her childhood and teenage years. Her writing is so poignant, sometimes haunting and beautiful in that kind of tragic way. I was most impressed with her closing chapters. She honestly relates her postpartum depression, that she like her mother, was powerless to climb out of. ~"There's a poison left in us women after a birth. It circles and spits and fights against our sinew and matter and rides our synapses, stings our nerves and lingerers long"~ What I most admire about Nicole is that she breaks the cardinal rule of her rural Catholic family: she brings the truth out in the light for all to see. Her father's abuse, his cheating, her Mother staying in her bedrooms for weeks on end in deep, deep depression. It is hidden, not talked about, though in a close knit community, every one is aware of it. Nicole, as her memoir comes to its close, chooses to bring what happened to her and who she is, and what she does, to light. ~"The Minnesota winter's still rolls you over and drops its grey on your chest. You're still difficult on those short days. You still get quiet. You still get angry. You still like to fight...Nicole you have a demon inside of you,you have got to do something about this. This time you agree. And when you see them and name them you can begin casting them out and throwing them down"~ I know this type of writing is not everyone's cup of tea. But from someone who suffers from hereditary depression reading in black and white near identical thoughts and emotions,the hazy thinking and guilt; strangely brings comfort.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mmars

    The controversy surrounding this book and "A Million Little Pieces" (which I have not read) can be credited for helping me acknowledge the fickle conundrum of memory - mine and others. This was a wonderfully written memoir. I can believe what she says because the people are true to rural central Minnesota. However, no one will ever know what is really the truth. Families have secrets. Some people prefer to air them. Some people don't. Some people create memories that don't exist for many reasons The controversy surrounding this book and "A Million Little Pieces" (which I have not read) can be credited for helping me acknowledge the fickle conundrum of memory - mine and others. This was a wonderfully written memoir. I can believe what she says because the people are true to rural central Minnesota. However, no one will ever know what is really the truth. Families have secrets. Some people prefer to air them. Some people don't. Some people create memories that don't exist for many reasons, or, embellishment of stories makes them believe their versions. Many people block out things they don't want to remember. So, whether what she writes is truth, embellishment, or downright fiction cannot be known. What is known and proven is that she can write well. Enjoyed it a lot.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mike Harper

    Why would I, a 72-year old male from "out east," read this memoir of a farm girl from Sleepy Eye, Minnesota? Well, my wife of 51 years was raised a German Catholic in New Ulm, the next town over from Sleepy Eye, and she said the book showed how little things changed in the 35 years or so between her childhood and the author's. So I piicked it up, expecting to read ten pages and get back to books more in my fields of interest. I was wrong. This is a short memoir, nicely written and often quite en Why would I, a 72-year old male from "out east," read this memoir of a farm girl from Sleepy Eye, Minnesota? Well, my wife of 51 years was raised a German Catholic in New Ulm, the next town over from Sleepy Eye, and she said the book showed how little things changed in the 35 years or so between her childhood and the author's. So I piicked it up, expecting to read ten pages and get back to books more in my fields of interest. I was wrong. This is a short memoir, nicely written and often quite entertaining. I can't vouch for its authenticity, but I have heard stories over the years about the New Ulm priests and nuns and German families that are entirely consistent with this book. So while I thought the description of Father John's homilies -a high point of the book, by the way - might be a little exaggerated, I'm not so sure. To the extent they are true renderings, they are both funny and horrifying. In sum, this memoir does for rural Minnesota in the 1980s what Willa Cather did for Nebraska a hundred years earlier: it placed an interesting story in the context of a time and place rapidly receding into memory.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Linda Johnson

    Since the author had local ties, I read this book with curiosity and some fascination. It is not a congruent story, more or less vignettes of one summer of her life growing up. There was controversy and protest from some of her family members when this book was first released as the book is not flattering to some of them. Intrestingly enough, her father who was very unfavorably depicted, said he was proud of her and didn't protest or deny his part in the story. He seemed to say at that time that Since the author had local ties, I read this book with curiosity and some fascination. It is not a congruent story, more or less vignettes of one summer of her life growing up. There was controversy and protest from some of her family members when this book was first released as the book is not flattering to some of them. Intrestingly enough, her father who was very unfavorably depicted, said he was proud of her and didn't protest or deny his part in the story. He seemed to say at that time that the book was written from Nicole's perspective and should be viewed as such.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Catherine

    This book is a memoir of essays focusing on Helget's upbringing on a dairy farm in Minnesota. Some passages were difficult to read due to spousal abuse and graphic, extreme physical abuse to animals. If you're sensitive to descriptions of abuse I would strongly recommend skipping this book. Some essays were heartbreaking, others simple, all beautifully written. Uplifting? No. A touching observation of an ordinary life? Absolutely. Probably deserves 3-1/2 stars. This book is a memoir of essays focusing on Helget's upbringing on a dairy farm in Minnesota. Some passages were difficult to read due to spousal abuse and graphic, extreme physical abuse to animals. If you're sensitive to descriptions of abuse I would strongly recommend skipping this book. Some essays were heartbreaking, others simple, all beautifully written. Uplifting? No. A touching observation of an ordinary life? Absolutely. Probably deserves 3-1/2 stars.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    I loved this book. There were a lot of parts that were really hard to read, but the emotion in the words was brutally honest. I,too, grew up on a farm in small town Minnesota. I have never read a book that I could relate to more, and I probably never will unless I write my own story down. Helget's choice of words for describing Minnesota farm life in the 80s is spot on. I'm so glad that she shared her story and that I found this book. Such an emotional read. I loved this book. There were a lot of parts that were really hard to read, but the emotion in the words was brutally honest. I,too, grew up on a farm in small town Minnesota. I have never read a book that I could relate to more, and I probably never will unless I write my own story down. Helget's choice of words for describing Minnesota farm life in the 80s is spot on. I'm so glad that she shared her story and that I found this book. Such an emotional read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Maureen Connolly

    I absolutely loved this book of short stories. The first story in particular is beyond heart-wrenching - I highly recommend it!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    This book was painful to read at times (her dad's an alcoholic; beats a cow to death), but it is so beautifully written. She is very frank about the harsh times she went through, but it's easy to read simply because of the beautiful, lyrical prose she writes. She's around the same age as I am and I could really relate to some things, but she had a heck of a childhood that I'm glad I didn't have to live through. This book was painful to read at times (her dad's an alcoholic; beats a cow to death), but it is so beautifully written. She is very frank about the harsh times she went through, but it's easy to read simply because of the beautiful, lyrical prose she writes. She's around the same age as I am and I could really relate to some things, but she had a heck of a childhood that I'm glad I didn't have to live through.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jean Miernik

    This book BLEW ME AWAY! When I first started reading it, I put it down in disgust. It was way too dark, gory, violent, and depressing. I am so glad I gave it another chance and read further. This book is a stark portrait of human nature, from the most depraved cruelty imaginable to the impossible depths of familial love and friendship. Horrific, yet uplifting. Emotionally raw. Painfully and beautifully honest. I would recommend it to anyone with a strong stomach.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    I started out feeling a little unsure about this book. It was good, kind of your typical memoir. I liked the Minnesota connections and I found the stories about farm life both intriguing and very disturbing. The last chapter of the book just blew me away. I could read it over and over again, I think.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kendra Stejskal

    I liked the style of writing in this memoir set in the Midwest, the author has a beautiful style (so I'm bumping my rating to a 2), but unfortunately I had to skim most of the book. There was a lot of description of animal cruelty, such as her father killing the cow with the pitchfork or shooting puppies. I just couldn't handle it. I know farm life (and life in general) has it's struggles. I understand the cycle of life or raising animals to feed your family. I just can't read the gory details o I liked the style of writing in this memoir set in the Midwest, the author has a beautiful style (so I'm bumping my rating to a 2), but unfortunately I had to skim most of the book. There was a lot of description of animal cruelty, such as her father killing the cow with the pitchfork or shooting puppies. I just couldn't handle it. I know farm life (and life in general) has it's struggles. I understand the cycle of life or raising animals to feed your family. I just can't read the gory details of animals that die horrifically simply because a person was angry at them. Plus there was a lot of hardship going on with the family as well, and the way the children were treated. I know this is life for many people. I just couldn't handle reading the struggles this time around. I'm just too overly sensitive.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    Wow.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Therese Dotray-Tulloch

    Difficult to read memoir of a rural upbringing in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota; the initial chapter I won't soon forget. Difficult to read memoir of a rural upbringing in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota; the initial chapter I won't soon forget.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Brittany Leach

    Great peek into Minnesota life, growing up on the farm

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jill M

    Depressing story

  16. 4 out of 5

    Harris

    In spite of its concise, fast paced writing, this is definitely a difficult, though striking, work. The picture of life in rural Minnesota painted by Nicole Helget is not pretty one and, though it contains its own beauty depicting the Minnesota River valley, it is a bleak and isolated world, beset with cruelty and despair. It is a world alien to me, living a hundred or so miles north in the urban Twin Cities, formed by the state’s largest city and capital respectively. In spite of the power of t In spite of its concise, fast paced writing, this is definitely a difficult, though striking, work. The picture of life in rural Minnesota painted by Nicole Helget is not pretty one and, though it contains its own beauty depicting the Minnesota River valley, it is a bleak and isolated world, beset with cruelty and despair. It is a world alien to me, living a hundred or so miles north in the urban Twin Cities, formed by the state’s largest city and capital respectively. In spite of the power of the writing, it was a disturbing, at times shocking memoir. The Summer of Ordinary Ways consists of a patchwork series of stories recalling the author’s childhood summers of the 1980s and ‘90s, through which she details life on her parent’s dairy farm with her six sisters, in all its dysfunction and pain. It was amazing to me all this took place only a few decades ago. A world populated by alcoholics who share their moonshine with children and dogs or are occasionally possessed by uncontrollable rage. Women who shoot at bicycling children riding past their farms and priests who urge their parishioners to vote Republican. The German Catholic farmers depicted live lives of stoic suffocation, prizing silence and keeping to themselves, yet know all the dark secrets of the surrounding families. This is certainly not a sentimental or nostalgic look at rural America, but one told entirely without romanticization. Her depictions of the routine, casual animal cruelty and abuse of women and children on the farm may make these stories very difficult (or impossible) reading. In my favorite story, Helget tells the ghost story of Annie Mary, a girl from the 1880s who fell from the hayloft and was knocked into unconsciousness, only to be buried alive. A true example of Midwestern gothic, the girl’s ghost still haunts the locals who see her wandering the Little Cottonwood River or hear her terrible cries. Her sad life seems to have been little different from her family's descendants a century later and haunts present Southwestern Minnesota in more ways than as just a ghost. In fact, it strikes me how similar Helget’s stories are to the life depicted in Wisconsin Death Trip, another account of the dark side of the farming Midwest from a century earlier.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Laurel Bradshaw

    It will be interesting to compare this story of growing up in rural Minnesota with The Cape Ann, which I read earlier, and Lake Wobegon Summer 1956, which I am reading next. The Cape Ann was sad, but parts of this book were disturbing. Memoirs are often exaggerated, still I know that even if these events are not exactly "true", they are true for somebody somewhere. I expect that women in all times and ages have felt lives of quiet despair, trapped in the seemingly endless cycle of childbirth and It will be interesting to compare this story of growing up in rural Minnesota with The Cape Ann, which I read earlier, and Lake Wobegon Summer 1956, which I am reading next. The Cape Ann was sad, but parts of this book were disturbing. Memoirs are often exaggerated, still I know that even if these events are not exactly "true", they are true for somebody somewhere. I expect that women in all times and ages have felt lives of quiet despair, trapped in the seemingly endless cycle of childbirth and childrearing, cleaning and cooking, and hard toil. Review from Publisher's Weekly: Helget's debut begins with a staggering example of her father's brutality: he mercilessly beats a cow to death for not weaning her calf. Yet Helget refuses to succumb to a "woe is me" attitude, and she layers vignettes to create a lyrical story of growing up on a Minnesota farm in the 1980s, where her mother verges on insanity, her five unruly younger sisters get underfoot, and death is a familiar part of life. The memoir's charm lies in Helget's dulcet use of language; even as she describes the century-old death of a little girl accidentally buried alive, her words sing: "Colors explode behind her lids, the colors of poppies and apples and straw and cantaloupe and leaves and Monarchs and stars and sky. And yet... she struggles to open her eyes.... it's black where she is." The amalgamation of reminiscences appears random until the final piece, in which Helget weaves an account of her child self with that of her adult self, providing context for the previous memories. Pregnant and married at 19, lonely and isolated, Helget tantalizes with a brief peek at her adulthood, but it's enough, because the glimpses into her younger life so satisfyingly explain who she has become. (Oct.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jami

    This book was disturbing though relatively inspiring and enlightening as well. What a strange life this little girl lived. It never ceases to amaze me to see the strange ways that culture of our childhood homes (e.g., environment, temperament, religious affliation/involvement, and certainly geography) can shape our adulthood. I particular enjoyed the questions Colie began asking herself questions how those religious litanies and parental explosions would affect her and even her children if no on This book was disturbing though relatively inspiring and enlightening as well. What a strange life this little girl lived. It never ceases to amaze me to see the strange ways that culture of our childhood homes (e.g., environment, temperament, religious affliation/involvement, and certainly geography) can shape our adulthood. I particular enjoyed the questions Colie began asking herself questions how those religious litanies and parental explosions would affect her and even her children if no one ever told her things could be different and how scary that might be. I only gave it three stars because I didn't really enjoy scattered tales and felt that some were outright confusing and didn't flow with the other tales. However, I did appreciate that the scattered tales were written some kind of order that made sense to the author and matched what she remembered. I also appreciated the author saying that some may not agree with her recollection but that is what she remembered and how critical those memories (factual or perceived) were to her development.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Catherine

    I read this a few years ago, so I won't say much, but it's one of those books I would never give away. It will be on my shelf until I die. In fact, I wouldn't give away any of her books. I live in Minnesota too, and this happened: I met a woman at a kid's soccer game and she told me where she lived. At that time I had just read this book, and I knew Nicole Helget was from that town too. Can't remember the name of the town. Southwestern Minnesota. So I asked, "Did you know Nicole Helget?" And thi I read this a few years ago, so I won't say much, but it's one of those books I would never give away. It will be on my shelf until I die. In fact, I wouldn't give away any of her books. I live in Minnesota too, and this happened: I met a woman at a kid's soccer game and she told me where she lived. At that time I had just read this book, and I knew Nicole Helget was from that town too. Can't remember the name of the town. Southwestern Minnesota. So I asked, "Did you know Nicole Helget?" And this soccer mom gave me a knowing look, and then whisperered something like, "Yes, everybody knows about her, but she's...you know...known to be sort of crazy." Here I had just read this book that goes deep into family, mental health, soul, and was just so relatable to me. I know that her story includes a little "crazy," but note to soccer mom: A little crazy seems to be working for her. And she's beautiful, and she probably saw right through you. I imagine she inspired a bit of jealousy in that town.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn

    An xmas gift from my friend KC, to remind me of my years in small-town Minnesota. This is reminiscent of Haven Kimmel's memoirs. Girl growing up in small town, struggling with the confines of every person around her knowing every detail of her life, and her mother's life, and her grandmother's, and her entire family's. Helgett, however, has it a lot worse off than Kimmel; her family is all kinds of fucked up. Reminded me of Alexandra Fuller's "Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight" as well. Where s An xmas gift from my friend KC, to remind me of my years in small-town Minnesota. This is reminiscent of Haven Kimmel's memoirs. Girl growing up in small town, struggling with the confines of every person around her knowing every detail of her life, and her mother's life, and her grandmother's, and her entire family's. Helgett, however, has it a lot worse off than Kimmel; her family is all kinds of fucked up. Reminded me of Alexandra Fuller's "Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight" as well. Where she's sometimes so brutally honest about her mom's behavior (or dad's, or someone else's) that it's almost too painful to read and extremely painful to think "What if I were the person she's writing about?" If you liked Kimmel, or Fuller, I'd highly recommend this. I'm looking forward to her next book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Noel

    This book started off with a bang. The first chapter was magnificent and I thought I'd read this book in a couple of days. But further into the book it slows down and there are several chapters devoted to dark side of growing up on a rural farm - plenty of animal killings (including puppies being shot) and long graphic details which I have little stomach for. I know these things happen. I choose not to read about them for chapters at a time. Having said that - her writing is excellent and for an This book started off with a bang. The first chapter was magnificent and I thought I'd read this book in a couple of days. But further into the book it slows down and there are several chapters devoted to dark side of growing up on a rural farm - plenty of animal killings (including puppies being shot) and long graphic details which I have little stomach for. I know these things happen. I choose not to read about them for chapters at a time. Having said that - her writing is excellent and for anyone who grew up on a Midwestern farm, this book will resonate with you. For those of us who didn't, we might be glad we grew up elsewhere. Very much a worthwhile read.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    Just started it, but this book is a memoir by a woman from Sleepy Eye. She currently lives in Mankato. There was actually a lot of press about this book because it won an award and then her family spoke out and created a bunch of drama saying she was exaggerating (and this was less than a year after the Million Little Pieces controversy). The argument I believe is over her alcoholic, abusive father. So far I think her writing is good, and I'm naturally interested because it's about growing up on Just started it, but this book is a memoir by a woman from Sleepy Eye. She currently lives in Mankato. There was actually a lot of press about this book because it won an award and then her family spoke out and created a bunch of drama saying she was exaggerating (and this was less than a year after the Million Little Pieces controversy). The argument I believe is over her alcoholic, abusive father. So far I think her writing is good, and I'm naturally interested because it's about growing up on a farm in southern Minnesota. Yup, loved it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tory

    To put it bluntly, this book kicks you in the nuts and never looks back. Nicole Helget recalls her childhood growing up on a farm in Minnesota. She is the first of six daughters born to a mother with melancholy and an alcoholic father with rage disorder. With every new chapter, you hope something good will come of her experience only to find that yet again something tragic, gruesome, disturbing has happened. I suspect this story was ghost written by "Debbie Downer" (of SNL fame). I sincerely hop To put it bluntly, this book kicks you in the nuts and never looks back. Nicole Helget recalls her childhood growing up on a farm in Minnesota. She is the first of six daughters born to a mother with melancholy and an alcoholic father with rage disorder. With every new chapter, you hope something good will come of her experience only to find that yet again something tragic, gruesome, disturbing has happened. I suspect this story was ghost written by "Debbie Downer" (of SNL fame). I sincerely hope that Helget has found peace in the process of exorcising the demons of her past.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Dinah

    I'm still "chewing" on this one. I'll come up with a review after I give myself a little time to fully digest. This memoir hits very close to home. All the names are familiar as the setting is a small town not 7 miles from where I live. I've been to or by all the places mentioned in this memoir. I moved to the area about 5 years after the majority of the memoir's stories are set. A lot of ugly stuff in this memoir. But there is a lot of beauty, too. I just have to think on it for a bit. I'm still "chewing" on this one. I'll come up with a review after I give myself a little time to fully digest. This memoir hits very close to home. All the names are familiar as the setting is a small town not 7 miles from where I live. I've been to or by all the places mentioned in this memoir. I moved to the area about 5 years after the majority of the memoir's stories are set. A lot of ugly stuff in this memoir. But there is a lot of beauty, too. I just have to think on it for a bit.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Barb

    Okay, maybe this one shouldn't get 4 stars, but I could totally relate to the author because it is written where I grew up and I had the same experiences and feelings - I went to that religious camp, I had watch while injured kittens were killed, I went out to the haunted place on a date, and I had to kneel in my living room during Lent and pray the rosary (I really think the Reichels are the Peichels and she heard about this)... Okay, maybe this one shouldn't get 4 stars, but I could totally relate to the author because it is written where I grew up and I had the same experiences and feelings - I went to that religious camp, I had watch while injured kittens were killed, I went out to the haunted place on a date, and I had to kneel in my living room during Lent and pray the rosary (I really think the Reichels are the Peichels and she heard about this)...

  26. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    Beautifully, artfully written book. I really enjoyed the cadence of the book, each chapter intertwined an event in the author's childhood with another event or topic that the author was coming to terms with. Absolutely loved the ghost story (middle of book). The last chapter was particularly powerful. As always the problems with depression, alcoholism and an unhappy marriage make the book a bit painful to read. Beautifully, artfully written book. I really enjoyed the cadence of the book, each chapter intertwined an event in the author's childhood with another event or topic that the author was coming to terms with. Absolutely loved the ghost story (middle of book). The last chapter was particularly powerful. As always the problems with depression, alcoholism and an unhappy marriage make the book a bit painful to read.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Keith

    Readable but a somewhat dark memoir of growing up rurally in Minnesota. Both the parents are a bit disturbed or have a hard time coping with a hard life, so the family is dysfunctional. The author is the oldest in a family of 6 girls. There is some animal cruelty so don't read it if you are sensitive to that. I'm always interested in how people become who they are, so I'm attracted to memoirs, but I don't think I'll read it again. The writing is great though and somewhat poetic. Readable but a somewhat dark memoir of growing up rurally in Minnesota. Both the parents are a bit disturbed or have a hard time coping with a hard life, so the family is dysfunctional. The author is the oldest in a family of 6 girls. There is some animal cruelty so don't read it if you are sensitive to that. I'm always interested in how people become who they are, so I'm attracted to memoirs, but I don't think I'll read it again. The writing is great though and somewhat poetic.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Denise Billings

    Publishers Weekly said her words sing. They are right. The chapter describing the fire of the summer of 1993 is a prime example. I felt like I was there, I felt the fear. Helget writes of her hugely dysfunctional family in a beautifully lyrical style that makes you want to keep reading. She's lucky that she got out of this family, this childhood, this life, alive. Dayum. Farm life is hard. It's harder when your parents are crazy as hell. Publishers Weekly said her words sing. They are right. The chapter describing the fire of the summer of 1993 is a prime example. I felt like I was there, I felt the fear. Helget writes of her hugely dysfunctional family in a beautifully lyrical style that makes you want to keep reading. She's lucky that she got out of this family, this childhood, this life, alive. Dayum. Farm life is hard. It's harder when your parents are crazy as hell.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Reed Stratton

    I am honored to have attended grad school with Nicole Helget and workshop her writing. Ever since I've met her I have been mezmerized by her writing; it is magic to me. There is no explanation for it; I think she is just blessed with the "gift of genius" as Terry Davis would say. The Summer of Ordinary Ways is captivating. I am honored to have attended grad school with Nicole Helget and workshop her writing. Ever since I've met her I have been mezmerized by her writing; it is magic to me. There is no explanation for it; I think she is just blessed with the "gift of genius" as Terry Davis would say. The Summer of Ordinary Ways is captivating.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Robin Martin

    This book had quite a bit of cruelty to animals, which is difficult for me to read; I skimmed these parts which in some case carried me too quickly I'm sure through the book which otherwise was still very sad. Catholicism, farm life, ignorance, miscarriages, too many children, post-partum and just plain crazy depression is sad and depicted pretty poetically here. This book had quite a bit of cruelty to animals, which is difficult for me to read; I skimmed these parts which in some case carried me too quickly I'm sure through the book which otherwise was still very sad. Catholicism, farm life, ignorance, miscarriages, too many children, post-partum and just plain crazy depression is sad and depicted pretty poetically here.

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