Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Suds In Your Eye by Mary Lasswell

This is a humorous story by Mary Lasswell about three retired women, Mrs. Annie Feeley, Miss Agnes Tinkham, and Mrs. Erna Rasmussen, who live in Southern California, probably San Diego, during World War II. Mrs. Feeley is a widow who runs a junk yard called Noah's Ark (it has two of everything) with the help of Old-Timer (her working man) after her husband died. She is uneducated and can't read.

Miss Tinkham, a retired music teacher, relies on rent from a home back east and she is looking for a less expensive place to live when she meets Mrs. Feeley.

Mrs. Rasmussen, also a widow, is a nationalized citizen from Denmark living with her daughter and her daughter's family, paying rent, cooking and taking care of the grandchildren. They insist that she get home by 10:00 p.m. Worse yet, her son-in-law doesn't drink and is a vegetarian.

Mrs. Feeley has no children, but she has a nephew, Danny Malone, who is a Chief Yeoman stationed on a ship, who apparently has lost his parents.

Mrs. Feeley invites Miss Tinkham and Mrs. Rasmussen to move into her one-room house and they build walls to provide privacy between the beds. Mrs. Rasmussen does the grocery shopping and prepares the meals. Miss Tinkham plays the piano. The two things the three have in common are their love of beer (thus the title) and their ability to get things done.

While Danny is home briefly, Miss Tinkham invites them all to visit the Spanish class she is taking and Danny falls in love with the teacher, Kate Logan, and she is instantly attracted to him. We know this quickly because of the viewpoint. Books written today are most often written in one character's point of view for each scene. However, this book came out in 1942 when it was more popular to use limited omniscient viewpoint, which means you have a God-like perspective of the story and can switch viewpoint from one character to another as needed, even within a scene. In other words the reader can read the minds of all characters in a scene, not just one.

The three ladies are struggling financially and manage to get by only by pooling their resources. Danny offers to help and is turned down. Then his ship leaves for a military mission and he is unavailable to help even if his aunt would let him.

Mrs. Feeley learns her junk yard and home are being sold because she hasn't paid her taxes for several years. Turns out the lawyer she'd hired to take care of it has stolen the money. If Miss Tinkham hadn't been there to read the letter to Mrs. Feeley, it would have been too late.

The three ladies and Old-Timer go to work at the tuna cannery to raise the money for the taxes by the deadline, plus a little extra for the trip to Tijuana the Spanish class has planned.

This book contains a few profanities that you wouldn't find today in a humor book and the only mention of Christian was this: Mrs. Feeley was glad to see that Kate Logan was a Christian when it came to drinking beer. It would have been almost too much of a disappointment if she had turned out to be the kind that liked the sweet stuff.

They manage to pay off the taxes and penalties and end up with enough money for the trip to Mexico with the class. While there, they find the lawyer and help the police catch him. Later, back in the United States, they get a reward for catching him.

Danny comes home and marries and Kate Logan and they have a huge party at Noah's Ark.

Great story.

There was more of a plot to the book than I remembered from reading in back in the 1950s. Although we didn't learn about the possible loss of the property until half way through the book, it was a significant event that put tension on the ladies to find a solution within a fixed time frame, the recipe for a good novel.

I think the reason I thought about Suds In Your Eye when I started writing about Liz Siedo and the bookmobile was that Liz gets things done and has a positive attitude about life, just like the three women in Mary Lasswell's books. I don't know yet, but I suspect Liz might enjoy a taste of beer from time to time.

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