Sunday, March 13, 2016

Readings and Greetings: One Hundred Years of Marriage

What was your father thinking the night he proposed to your mother? Why did she say yes? 

By the time we ask, all of the compelling details have cooled into whatever myths they've chosen to tell us.  Our grandparents' stories are even more frozen, and the truths of our great-grandparents' unions have perished in the airless memories of the dead.

After reading this note in One Hundred Years of Marriage, I stopped reading the book that evening and pondered all of these questions about my own family. These are the questions that intrigue genealogy storytellers.  

Louise Farmer Smith, who grew up in Norman, Oklahoma explores these questions through the lives of four generations of 'long suffering women' whose marriages produce children, depression, resilience, secrets, betrayal, and memories.  The story is balanced with insights to each couple. No marriage is one-sided, nor is this story. 

Nineteen year old Patty, becomes the caretaker of her mother, Alice, when her mother descends into the darkness of the 'change.' In order to help her little brother better understand what is happening to his mother she walks him through the wooded area out back, with the intention of explaining why their mother
married their father. The story winds back to the weekend her mother drove with her fiance, Cecil Brady, to meet his family in McAlister. Through this retelling Patty begins to understand her mother's darkness, but it is only a fragment of her parent's marriage. 

Story by story the reader discovers the path that each woman chose and why. How did Patty's great-grandmother, a beautiful young woman, become an orphan and fall into such want and desolation. The men, too, have their stories. Young Danny Hale's heart is broken when his mother, once a strong educated woman falls into depression, leaving his father no choice but to take her to the Lincoln Asylum. The Civil War, a generation of families who moved west from Virginia to Nebraska and Oklahoma Territory, to the return of veterans from World War II, are pieces of history that fill this story with love, heartache, angry men, and children who learn to stand on their own.

These are the generations who kept secrets, who kept skeletons in the closet. Louise Farmer Smith imagines what these secrets might have been, and creates one hundred years of family stories that keep the reader inthralled. 


  1. This sounds amazing! I've always said that if I could go back in time, I'd go hang out with my parents during the six months from when they met until they got married. I love the idea of finding out the truth of family and marriage relationships.

  2. Sounds like a great summer read for me! Thx, Letty—and enjoy this wonderful day. I’m off to walk! Mb