A few weeks ago, an author wrote to me and said he'd like to send me three of his books. Being the reader and interested writer that I am, I accepted with pleasure. T. L. Needham didn't ask me to review any of the books, just said he'd like to send them. Within days, I'd received When I Was A Child, Pesky Poems, and Kitty Claus. The first is a memoir, the second a book of poetry and the third a Christmas story for small children.
I've read all three now but the one I want to talk about today is the memoir. To begin with, the title of the book intrigued me as did the cover. Was this a memoir of the author's childhood and no farther into his life than that? The cover also showed 4 awards the book had won:
1. Finalist USA Book News Best Book Awards
2. Bronze Readers Favorite Award
3. 2013 Global Book Awards--Gold Medal History/Nonfiction
4. 2013 Global Book Awards Honorable Mention Best Book Cover
I was surprised when I started reading that the memoir is not about the author at all. Instead, it centers on his uncle, Louis Pfeifer. The story begins during theAllied invasion of France during WWII. Louis is a paratrooper who lands safely only to soon be captured by German troops. He spends the remainder of the war in a prison camp. The story jumps back and forth from that period to Louis's childhood which is filled with tragedy, sadness and, in spite of it, great bonds of love amongst his siblings. They all grew up in Hays, Kansas and the surrounding area. Louis's mother froze to death in a blizzard when he was only two years old, the youngest child in the Pfeifer family. His sister, Jerry, only a year older, became his protector, The close bond they formed during the tragedy lasted a lifetime. The family went through Depression era troubles, tornados, deaths, incest, a court trial and more. Louis and Jerry spent time in a Catholic orphanage while the older siblings found themselves on their own at very early ages.
I started the book late one evening and was hooked so quickly that I stayed up too late that night. It's a fascinating story. Terry Needham does a fine job in moving from the WWII prison camp to the flashbacks of Louis's growing-up years. He weaves the two seamlessly and it is easy to see why the book one the Reader's Favorite award.
I had one minor criticism, which doesn't take the reader out of the story at all. Some of the information is repeated when it's not necessary to do so. The reader would remember what is being told more than once. Believe me, it is a small flaw in a fine book.
I write short memoir pieces but would like to do a booklength memoir someday. A good way to do that is to read other memoir books to get a good feel for the ways in which they can be done. If you have any interest in writing in this genre, I'd recommend this book. And if you never intend to write a memoir at all, I'd still recommend When I Was A Child as a fine read. It held my interest from start to finish. You can read more about it at Amazon. My thanks to Terry Needham for sharing his family's story with me.