Book Review: Little Heathens

by Wendy Copley on November 16, 2007

Little HeathensI just finished a great book, Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression by Mildred Armstrong Kalish. This was a good book to read while I was sick — part memoir, part cookbook, part instruction manual for life on a farm. The chapters are short but packed with interesting anecdotes and reading the book feels a lot like sitting and talking with a vivacious great aunt at a family reunion.

I’m not a farm girl, but I am an Iowan at my core and this book is a love letter to Iowa. Kalish’s descriptions of the fall of a summer evening and the feel of the air just before a thunderstorm made me ache for my home state. The Bay Area is lovely, but after seventeen years here, the weather still feels wrong to me. Nothing makes me homesick like the memory of dusk in July with that damp blanket of warm air and all the neighbor kids running around the yard playing tag. We may have been born 50 years apart, but I know where this woman is coming from.

Kalish is just a little younger than my Grandma Ruby was and that added another level enjoyment to this book for me. It helped me picture what my Grandma’s life was like when she was a girl and reminded me of some of the stories she told me. And I miss my Grandma, so that was a nice feeling.

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