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Onions in the Stew Paperback – August, 2000

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About the Author

Betty MacDonald (March 26, 1908 (some sources indicate 1907) – February 7, 1958) was an American author who specialized in humorous autobiographical tales, and is best known for her book The Egg and I. She also wrote the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series of children's books. She is associated with the Pacific Northwest, especially Washington state. MacDonald was born Anne Elizabeth Campbell Bard in Boulder, Colorado. Her official birth date is given as March 26, 1908 (although federal census returns seem to indicate 1907), Her family moved to the north slope of Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood in 1918, moving to the Laurelhurst neighborhood a year later and finally settling in the Roosevelt neighborhood in 1922, where she graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1924. MacDonald married Robert Eugene Heskett (1895–1951) at age 20 in July 1927;[4] they lived on a chicken farm in the Olympic Peninsula's Chimacum Valley, near Center and a few miles south of the seaside community of Port Townsend. She left Heskett in 1931 and returned to Seattle, where she worked at a variety of jobs to support their daughters Anne and Joan; after the divorce the ex-spouses had virtually no contact. She spent nine months at Firlands Sanitarium near Seattle in 1937–1938 for treatment of tuberculosis. On April 24, 1942, she married Donald C. MacDonald (1910–1975) and moved to Vashon Island, where she wrote most of her books. The MacDonalds moved to California's Carmel Valley in 1956. MacDonald rose to fame when her first book, The Egg and I, was published in 1945. It was a bestseller and was translated into 20 languages. Based on her life on the Chimacum Valley chicken farm, the books introduced the characters Ma and Pa Kettle, who also were featured in the movie version of The Egg and I. The characters become so popular a series of nine more films were made featuring them. In the film of The Egg and I, made in 1947, MacDonald was played by Claudette Colbert. Her husband (simply called "Bob" in the book) was called "Bob MacDonald" in the film, as studio executives were keen not to raise the matter of MacDonald's divorce in the public consciousness. He was played by Fred MacMurray. Although the book was a critical and popular success at publication, in the 1970s it was criticize for its stereotypical treatment of native Americans. It was also been claimed that it "spawned a perception of Washington as a land of eccentric country bumpkins like Ma and Pa Kettle. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Joiner/Oriel Inc; Later Printing Used edition (August 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1888173300
  • ISBN-13: 978-1888173307
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 6.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,484,010 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

A longtime resident of Washington State, Betty MacDonald (1908-1958) authored four humorous, autobiographical bestsellers and several children's books, including the popular Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 41 people found the following review helpful By PonyExpress on April 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
Most readers remember Betty MacDonald for her most famous title, "The Egg and I", or her charming children's series, the Mrs. Piggle-wiggle books. I had never heard of her when I read "Onions In the Stew" 25 years ago, and now that's it's coming back into print, it deserves re-discovery. I defy anyone to get through the first chapter without laughing out loud. I'm loathe to describe Mac Donald as "in the Erma Bombeck mold"-as Betty is MUCH wittier-and also warmer. "Onions In the Stew" is thirty-something Betty's account of life during WW2 with one husband, two adolescent daughters, and many, many assorted pets, neighbors, unwanted guests,et al on an island in Washington's Puget Sound. No sentimentality, loads of wry observation, and some touching, quite beautiful descriptions of what was then wild island life. You'll finish the book wanting to visit Vashon Island, and feeling like Betty's the best friend you've never met.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth G. Melillo VINE VOICE on December 18, 2001
Format: Paperback
Betty's greatest talent was for describing situations that are quite banal, even rather troublesome, in a totally hilarious fashion. The situations are all the funnier for the reader's realisation that, in other hands, they could have been described as a tale of woe - where, in Betty's hands, they are delightful.
Financial crunches, months of futile searching for a residence, the adjustment of Betty and her children to a life with a new husband and stepfather (whose attitudes are quite different from those of a carefree Bard), living on an island where there are too many visitors and far too little accessibility for daily work and school, a beautiful neighbour's having her eyes on one's husband - these could have been the stuff of whining or dreary "self-help" attitudes. Betty is far from sentimental, totally honest, yet approaches all from a highly positive attitude that nearly makes one envious. This book is also a fine reminder to today's concerned parents that having adolescent children was no joy ride, even 60 years ago.
My only criticism of Betty's writing is that, in her descriptions, she did not know when to stop. For example, her description of Vashon Island is engaging for the first two paragraphs, but rather excessive when it runs to several pages.
This is easily one of the funniest, and most honest, books I have ever read - and read I do, again and again, always finding it a refreshing treat.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Denise Müller on July 9, 2001
Format: Paperback
Betty MacDonald's books are all funny, witty and wise.
But Onions in the Stew is the favorite book of the Betty Fans worldwide. Why? She described family life on Vashon Island with husband Don and daughters Anne and Joan in an unique way. You can read it over and over again and you'll enjoy the everyday life of this wonderful family. There are several snakes in Betty's paradise, snowstorms, adolescence, a beautiful neighbor, who is very interested in Betty's husband and many, many guests and so much more but it's such a delight to read these stories and you can laugh out loud. No wonder that there is a Betty MacDonald Society and a Fan Club with so many fans world wide. Her books are classics - never dated at all.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By BAW on June 28, 2005
Format: Paperback
"The Egg and I." As I said in my review of the earlier book, although I found parts of "Egg" charming, the chapter on Indians made my part-Cherokee blood boil, and that other parts seemed rather mean-spirited as well.

There is none of the mean-spiritedness in "Onions", probably because, in spite of the various toils and tribulations of life on the island, Betty was basically happy there, as opposed to "Egg" where she was mostly miserable.

I loved the part about the small woman who loved to curl up on soft, comfy places like sofas, armchairs, and other women's husbands' laps. I wondered, though, why Betty didn't just ask her to step out into the garden and then drop-kick her across the straight to Seattle? I'm sure she could have gotten some of the other women in their circle of friends to help.

Many of the events she tells of show us that teenage girls have always been a handful, whatever they say. However, in spite of all the complaining and whining, the girls were willing to pich in; how many girls their age nowadays would have something like stuffed pork chops waiting when their parents came home from work?

While "Egg" left me wondering why anyone in their right mind would want to run a chicken farm in the middle of a howling wilderness, "Onions" made me wonder if living on an island might not be fun.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By sally barry on June 23, 2000
Format: Paperback
I just happened to look this book up for the heck of it, as it was the first non-fiction book I remember reading years ago as a child. Imagine my surprise to see it was being re-issued! "Onions In The Stew" is just a delightful book about a great family living on Puget Sound during the war. I read it over and over and over until my copy just fell apart. I have often wondered over the years just what the island those people lived on looks like today, it sounded like a beach-y heaven to me. Today I suppose it's paradise paved over with million dollar condos, pricey strip malls, and Starbucks. I recommend this book, it is a warm and witty slice of life that is no more. (Also read the author's other books, they are all good!)
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