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on May 29, 2016
To think that until the last year I had never heard of Defiance, Ohio or of the Ryan family, and now I've fallen in love with the family, especially the indomitable mom. I reconnected with a former classmate via classmates.com who lives in Defiance. While volunteering with some church friends, I told a friend about my new email friend from Defiance. She told me that her husband lived in Defiance at one time. The next thing I knew she was giving me the dvd about the Ryan family. I watched it and was so moved--I cried and cried. It was hard for me to laugh, though. I then knew that I definitely wanted to read the book. I looked forward to getting back to the book every day even though it seemed like it was one jingle after another! We get to read her winning jingles and all the ones that didn't win. This was interesting but I felt as though I needed a break from the contest routine. I needed more about the children (they were fleshed out a little but not a lot). It was interesting to read about their house and all the broken appliances and the mom's ingenuity when it came to coping with them. Can you imagine not having a handle on your refrigerator door? I will admit that I wanted to hear more about her alcoholic father's rages, but she is very discreet when it comes to focusing on her dad's shortcomings. Now I'm thinking that she was right to take the focus away from him and to concentrate on her absolutely wonderful, amazing, ingenious mom who kept the family afloat with her prize-winning contest entries. I cried at the end. It was illuminating for me to find that some of the scenes in the movie were exactly how they happened. Sometimes when I was watching the movie, I was thinking that a particular incident couldn't have really happened but sure enough it did. The father was interesting in that he was terribly violent but he'd snap out of his rages and become gentle again. I kept thinking that some of the occurrences wouldn't have happened with my father who could be violent without any alcohol to fuel him but whom we would have been afraid to challenge verbally and physically as the Ryan family does with their head of family. This dad is like a lion and a mouse all in one. He's remorseful after many of his blow-ups. I guess if he'd been worse the family wouldn't have been as happy as they were. They became such a resilient family--the children learned from their mother about resourcefulness and survival techniques. In order to understand this book, you have to know more about the fifties when so many moms were out of the work force, taking care of home and family, and often not even being able to drive a car. My mom didn't drive when I was growing up. She was our mainstay--always home when we got home from school. Gave me a very secure feeling. The book is a treasure because it's a relic in many ways--it's a tale from a bygone era and for me it was inspiring and amazing and beautiful. So glad Terry Ryan shared this story before her untimely passing.
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on January 12, 2013
I got the book as a gift for a friend whose own mother was a contester during the fifties, and early 60's, and won prizes, trips, and cash after her husband died of a cancer that left her alone with three small daughters. When my friend told me she loved it, I decided to read it myself! The book is a love song to the author's mom, who faced enormous challenges raising her ten kids, without much support from her alcoholic husband.
I warmed to the book as I turned its pages, discovering more and more about the depth of this mom's rebounding spirit and hopefulness in the face of ever-increasing desperation over finances. The project of writing this book was for the daughter a celebration with all the people who loved her mother, as she gathered bits of info and clarification about the contesting culture of the 50's, from her siblings and her mom's friends.
A fun and impressive read.
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on December 8, 2015
I LOVED THIS BOOK ITS SO HILARIOUS AND FULL OF LIKE LOVE AND FUN LAUGHTER. TERRY RYAN WAS A VERY GOOD AND FUNNY WRITER HER MOTHER WROTE A HUMOE COLUM FOR THE NEWSPAPER BEFORE GETTING MARRIED. AND HER LOVE OF ENTERING CONTEST IS SO MUCH FUN I TOO LOVE CONTEST AND HAVE BEEN LUCKY TO WIN A FEW THINGS SO HAVE OTHER MENBERS OF MY FAMILY.HER HUSBAND KELLY AND TWO ALSO GOT STARTED IN ENTERING CONTEST AND DRAWINGS.BUT THEY JUST WON LOTS OF GALLON OF GAS BUT BRUCE SOLD A BIG WIN OF GAS TO A GAS STATION AND MOVED TO CAILFORNIA. RIGHT WHEN SHE NEEDED A VERY BIG WIN SHE ENTERED THE DR PEPER CONTEST AND WON ALL THE MAIN PRIZES AND GOT THE MONEY FOR THE LAST HOUSE PAYMENT. SHE SO MUCH SHE WAS LIKE THE QUEEN OF CONTESTING. ITS SAD THAT BOTH HER AND HER DAUGTHER TERRY ARE NOW BOTH DEAD NOW. I WOULD HAVE LOVED TO WRITE HER AND ASK ABOUT ALL THE CONTEST. I THIS IS GOING TO BECOME ONE OF MY VERY FAVORITE BOOKS OF ALL TIME.
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on July 19, 2014
What a beautiful, messy, complicated, simple life this woman lead! Her children are testament of her love and resilience. The complications of having so many children in no way overshadows the joy she found in them.
I watched the movie before knowing there was a book. Usually, I find the the movie is no where near as good as the book and here again that is what I found. However, the movie was an appetizer for complete meal that this book is. Satisfying, making me both cry and shout with laughter.
I recommend this one highly!
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on January 14, 2014
I watched the movie first and absolutely loved it! I bought the book and over the space of a year I read it a couple of times. When I saw it as a kindle deal, I bought it. I like to add my favorite books to my Kindle when I catch them on sale.This story captives me. The mother is so loving and kind and even though she is dealing with an alcoholic and abusive husband she does the very best she can for her children and they love her so much. This book is a loving tribute to the author's mother.
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on August 12, 2017
I bought the book after hearing the author interviewed on NPR. I have purchased copies for family and friends and decided to get a copy for my kindle. It was just as good as I remembered. You can't help but look at life differently when you're done!
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on February 16, 2016
Wouldn't you love to meet someone like Evelyn Ryan? A woman with so much spunk, wit, determination, spirit and drive; she rescues her home and family time and again with limericks and essays of '25 words or less.' She overcomes crushing poverty, alcoholic abuse from her husband, one crisis after another of accidents, illness, broken appliances, car troubles and debt collectors knocking on her door with faith and creativity. So many times during the book I just marveled at her indomitable spirit that not only kept her going, but kept her cheerful and encouraging to the rest of the family. This book was a joy to read and a real inspiration to look at life with hope and wonder.
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on December 20, 2013
I enjoyed reading this book. It took me back in time to remembering people who were living from day to day and hand to mouth. I knew families who were poor. Evelyn Ryan (the author's mother) supported 10 kids and ran her household pretty much alone. Her husband was an alcoholic who spent his money on his habit. Evelyn who was over loaded with raising kid and running her home, used her brain to bring in money by entering contests and winning them. Loved her "can do" spirit. She had no time to get a job or take on an inhome wage earning chore. Terry included a lot of her mom's award- winning and non-award winning submissions. Many of which I kind of shook my head and said, "that won"? Guess it really was a different time back then. At any rate, I loved the story about this very inspiring woman who raised her family using "brain power" and ingenuity. Nostalgia at it's best.
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on August 17, 2017
I came across this book while searching for another book by Haven Kimmel who wrote, "A Girl Names Skippy." "The Prize Winner..." is also hilarious!
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on January 15, 2014
I was taken in from the very beginning. I kept thinking I couldn't wait for my mom to read this. The hope, the joy and the pain were beautifully described. A stunning family portrait.

Although I was raised in the 60's there were still so many things I could relate to from my childhood. The stories I've heard from my own parents had so many similar elements and themes I felt like I was listening to them speak. I recently saw an old advertisement and immediately thought I know how this was done, and what it meant to the people writing the catchy one liners or product taglines. That is because it was described so eloquently.

I may or may not watch the movie because I have the portraits so vividly in my mind I don't want to spoil them. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It is an amazing read.
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