The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio by Terry Ryan

May 15, 2012

If you want a true story that is inspiring, entertaining, realistic, and heartwarming, this is it. I LOVED this book. Evelyn Ryan was an amazing woman. Her daughter (Terry Ryan) does not set out to make her look perfect. However, she does paint a vivid picture of a woman who is determined, hard-working, ingenious, persistent, and an eternal optimist. By the end of the book, I really felt like I knew Evelyn Ryan, so much so that when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer and said, "I don't know how I got myself into such a pickle," I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time because it sounded just like something she would say.

The book itself is very easy to read. The first chapter caught me a little off-guard because I couldn't figure out how it was just felt like I was thrown into the middle of the Ryan family and I was supposed to already know who Bruce and Dick and Betsy and all the rest of the Ryan children were. By the second chapter though, I loved the writing style because it was so readable. I loved the way Terry got in so many examples of her mother's contest entries without making it feel like that was all the book was about. And I loved the photographs and entry blanks that were spaced throughout the book.

In most biographies, the second chapter goes back in time and gives a history of the person's parents, upbringing, etc. I always find those chapters a little difficult to get through. But in this book, that chapter didn't come until well past the half-way point. By that time, I wanted to know more about Evelyn's background, so I loved that chapter. (Plus, it was presented in a very natural, laid-back way, just giving the interesting facts and stories.)

This book also offers a glimpse into 1950's rural America, which I really liked.

The thing I loved the most about Evelyn Ryan was the way she was just satisfied and content with her life. She didn't regret her marriage (even though it was to an alcoholic). She didn't regret having 10 children. She didn't regret not having a career. She loved life just as it was. I want to follow her example and just enjoy living in the present and finding the good
in whatever life throws at me. This is a book I would recommend to everyone.

This review was written before the birth of this blog.

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