Earlier this year my mother-in-law published her life memoir in book form. I’m horrible at keeping the habit of reading (ironic for a blogger, I think,) so I just finished it a few weeks ago.
I gotta say I do have the whole family bias thing, nonetheless I’ll be reviewing the book fairly. It has its pros and cons just like other books, so don’t think I’m playing favorites.
The title is “You Don’t Have to Move the Washer to Make Toast,” a mouthful no doubt indicative of my second mom’s long-windedness. 🙂
(She is the one who lent my wife and I this Ruth movie. I hope my negative review of it didn’t hurt her feelings.)
Such an odd and long title comes from an anecdote having to do with a toaster on a washer flinging toast against the wall and onto the floor. You’ll just have to read it to understand.
“Move the Washer,” as it is in short, is brimming with all sorts of fun and silly anecdotes. The book isn’t all smiles, though; my mother-in-law, Susan, had some pretty tough times in life.
There are some dark parts about her being poisoned in a cyanide gas chamber, having panicked flashbacks to childhood abuse, and being caught in an awful tropical storm. But hindsight is 20/20 they say, and she always emphasizes a redemptive undertone to each of her life’s shortfalls and sufferings.
Aside from some of those shocking happenings, there are quite a few good laughs to be had as well. You don’t need to know Susan to appreciate her stories since a lot of her personality comes out in her writing. There are plenty of anecdotes gathered up from a long life, and you can bet she’s saved the most interesting and entertaining ones for this book.
There are plenty of questions asked, lessons learned, and stories to share. This is more than a boring account of some lady’s perfect life; it’s a true story that point’s to God’s sovereignty. But I’ll talk more about that a bit later.
The Stars of the Show
The book is an autobiography, so obviously it’s about my mom Susan. There are some other key roles, though, that ended up requiring some A-list personalities!
Christ is the real focus in every Christian’s story. There is much to say about a relationship with God that at times seems distant but is in fact more loving than we could ever know. I imagine a toddler sneaking off into another room and thinking their parents aren’t watching.
In no time at all, though, the toddler’s attention is deeply engrossed in some childish activity and a parent could stare for minutes without being noticed. That is much how this story plays out. What’s done in the dark will be brought to the light, but the secret work of God is revealed simultaneously.
The Man in the Brown Suit is also a significant character. Spoiler alert… he ends up as Susan’s husband! My wife’s dad is a very interesting man.
It’s definitely an insight to see the beginnings of this eventual marriage relationship. They both brought difficulty from lifelong and childhood struggles, yet their dedication to a functional marriage is admirably rare in the modern day.
Then my wife enters the picture. First during stories of pregnancy and eventually portrayed as her more recent self. I was afraid that my Hayley Bias coupled with the differing perceptions of her would cause me to have trouble with these stories. After all, a mother and a husband can (and generally do) have very different perspectives on the same person.
I wasn’t disappointed, though, and I think her personality is captured well. I’m even mentioned a few times toward the end, when Mom is talking about Hayley and I’s wedding.
I hate to say it but there are a few issues with the book, and I’m going to be honest and critique even the work of family. I do want to say that the issues are fairly minor and for the most part were out of Susan’s hands. These issues are more about happenstance rather than negligence.
The main problem was that professional, fine-tooth comb editing was quite cost-prohibitive. There was some rewriting, reorganization, and rough edits, but the gritty reworks never happened. Perhaps that could have been overcome as some of us went through it, but then comes a worse issue.
Toward the end of the process Susan tragically had a stroke, which indefinitely delayed further rewrites and finer self-edits. Not only did this put the publishing process on hold but prevented a lot of the communication that needed to take place.
Nevertheless, the book was eventually finished and printed through West Bow Press. Leftover are some quirks that are usually removed in a more detailed editing process. Thus there are some points in the story that are unnecessary, need elaboration, or are out of place.
Sometimes the stories skip back and forth chronologically which can cause confusion about when and in what order the events actually happened. And there are also some occasional and minor spelling/grammar errors.
Again, the lack of a finer, final edit is what caused most of this and that was pretty much out of their hands. The book is still very readable and enjoyable despite these small quirks, and I still highly recommend it. The lack of polish seems to force the reader to focus on content rather than presentation, which could actually be seen as a positive point.
The Main Point
Of course the book is about my mother-in-law Susan’s life. It’s an autobiography, after all. But the overarching message is that of divine intervention and guidance.
One word she repeats over and over is “providence.” Providence, provision, insight. The way the Lord guides and protects us in life is incredible despite what bad things might happen to us.
Outside of a spiritual and scripturally informed viewpoint, Susan’s life was a hopeless mess that should have ended long ago. God is a redeemer, though, and the ups and downs of life are means by which He wonderfully works. Even when those ups and downs seem mostly like downs.
Life is difficult, but God sends us blessings and gifts along the way. This story is about learning to walk with God and trust him. It’s about being intimate with God.
Even though this book has some incomplete editing, there is plenty to get from it. From dark stories to lighthearted humor, there is something fun or interesting on every page. And much to learn about how God works in our lives!
I definitely think you should pick up a copy here on Amazon (I recommend the paperback). Hey, it’s my family!
Thanks for dropping by! If you liked this book or my review, leave me a comment below. God bless!