Wendy C's Reviews > The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio by Terry Ryan
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Jul 30, 08


I really enjoyed this nonfictional account of a 1950s stay-at-home mom of ten children who kept the family clothed and fed by winning slogan contests. Her husband Kelly had a job at a machinery but drank away a big chunk of his paycheck (a pint of whiskey and a six pack of beer every night), so Evelyn Ryan relied on her clever wit to compensate.

The film based on the book is pretty true to the story. What I like about the book, though (which I read after seeing the movie), is reading all the rhymes -- the winners and the losers -- Evelyn wrote while ironing or doing other chores. Terry Ryan weaves these verses well into the narrative so that it all flows. For example, if the dad has had an alcohol-fueled episode, we get to read a touching yet completely fantasy-based poem about why Kelly Ryan should be named father of the year, or the following contest entry for Dial Soap:

I'm glad I use Dial
It's the one "bar" in town
With a "chaser" for "troubles"
Plain water can't drown

I also enjoyed all the anecdotes and disaster stories you'd expect to happen in a family with 10 kids. Through it all, Mrs. Ryan never loses her positive attitude and always makes the best of every situation. The part where she goes on the 10-minute grocery store shopping spree brought a tear to my eye while I was reading on the bus.

I felt sad for this family's situation during many points of the story, but as I kept reading I felt increasingly angry with those current-day families who are stretched to the limit on credit yet still buying luxury items as if they need them. If the Ryans didn't have the cash, they didn't buy milk or new shoes. They never went out to dinner. Twelve people slept in a two-bedroom house before Mrs. Ryan won a $3,000 grand prize that afforded them the opportunity to buy a home with four bedrooms.

There is so much to love about this true story; I would recommend it to anyone.
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