Avon, Ohio, was a sleepy little farm town in 1945. A simple way of life focused around strict Catholic doctrine, St. Mary's Church, and the objective truths and sense of right and wrong contained within those hallowed institutions. Tolerance was a luxury, one in which this town never indulged, favoring the rod over compassion. In 1928, when a young woman was the victim of sexual assault, she was tarnished, regardless of her subsequent marriage and a house full of children. Years after the assault, I was born into this family -- a family that shared a dilapidated farm house scarcely big enough to contain two people, let alone my grandparents, mother, sister, and two brothers. The townspeople's denial became condemnation as my father divorced my mother; the Town shunned our family and my mother took to her bed, unable to face herself or the world. Unaware of the cause of my mother's inability to function, I only knew I would grow to live a different life. I made a promise to that effect at the age of seven, under the shade and protection of my Butternut Tree. The fulfillment of that promise has taken many turns.
The Butternut Tree is an intriguing memoir of Maureen when she was growing up. Not knowing why her mother was disgraced in their small town of Avon, Ohio she vows to a nearby Butternut Tree at the tender age of seven that she is going to live a very different life than how she lives as she is small.
A poor family, there are way too many people living in the Richards house. Not only Maureen's parents, but also her grandparents and siblings. Eventually her father leaves her mother and things escalate to worse in the town for Maureen's mom, Laura. Before long, Laura doesn't want to even get out of bed - she's so depressed and tired of living.
Small town prejudice and secrets set the tone for this very easy to read memoir. I felt so bad for Laura, assaulted sexually and bearing the brunt of the crime should not fall on the victims shoulders. I also despised her husband, thinking Laura a fallen woman because of it all. I think Maureen does a great job though of showing the happy times and the sad times. I was sorry to see it end. If you enjoy excellent written memoirs, pick up The Butternut Tree. Highly recommend!
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.