My favorite novel is so obscure and so hated by so many people, they tell me how much they hate it even after I was nice enough to find a copy via bookfinder.com and send it to them (at my expense, not theirs). It’s such a great story, I’ve always longed for a sort of book club of fellow fans to discuss it with. Via amazon, I found ONE other reviewer who loves it. I stalked her. Susan Sloate (a novelist herself) and I now are cyber pals. On ebay, I lost a bid on the novel to a guy named Frank in Utah. So I stalked him, and we emailed each other for about a year before he got sick of me (or died, for all I know). That was almost ten years ago.
I thought of this today when John L. Monk emailed me, “Carol I think in retrospect I shouldn’t have been so supportive (to you) of (a certain Indie novel) I love the book, think the world of (the author) and her book, and wanted to share I’m super aggressive at times, and it’s hard to back off. Working on it…” 🙂
John sounds so much like me sometimes, is it any wonder I’m smitten with his novel KICK? Sometimes we discover an author who has us nodding and thinking, “This guy totally gets it. I feel the same way,” or think the same kind of thoughts, crave the same kind of– well, read KICK, and you might guess what I crave.
Still reading? What, you want to know more about the novel everybody hates except for me, my mother, Susan, and a guy named Frank?
The title, “Good Morning, Young Lady,” is taken from the song “Goodbye, Old Paint.”
“There isn’t a place in the world you can go where they don’t know about cowboys and Indians and the myth of the West,” said Cormac McCarthy.
Myth? Wait a minute. All that I love about the Old West is a myth?
Never mind. Myth can be more true than life, and the Cinderella theme of “Good Morning, Young Lady” riveted me first. Dorney’s mom dies in childbirth and Dorney is raised by sisters old enough to be her aunts. My infant mother was raised by aunts when her mother died. Unlike my mother who had more exciting things to do than read books, Dorney is a quiet, dreamy, bookish girl (i.e., a misfit like me), fond of stories from old “Grandpa” Bannon next door, a hen-pecked grouch who pretends to find her a nuisance. On moving to Salt Lake City at 14 to live with her older sister, Dorney is relegated to an attic, and sister Madge claims most of Dorney’s wages to pay for the piano lessons, hats and dresses of spoiled daughter Crystal. As a maid, Dorney meets a visiting English professor who nurtures her love of books. She can’t figure out why he seems so familiar, but the last page of the novel will resolve that mystery.
Back to that old man next door: he speaks fondly of his son Blufe, who just happens to know *the* Butch Cassidy, and Grandpa Bannon (a prisoner to his wife) just may celebrate the free and wild life of an outlaw more than he should to an impressionable little girl. I forgive him. I love him all the more for it! What America lacks in Greek gods and goddesses, we make up for with cowboys, pioneers, Natives and, well, outlaws. Are we the only nation who has such a love affair with vigilantes and law breakers, all in the name of freedom and life on horseback in Big Sky country?
Ardyth Kennelly must have been quite taken with Butch, to tell his story in such loving detail. I even invested $20 in a shabby, out-of-print paperback to see if she’d be mentioned, but Lula Parker Betenson, author of “Butch Cassidy, My Brother” doesn’t tell us if Ardyth ever met Butch. She does say that Butch approached Judge Orlando W. Powers in Salt Lake City to see “if there was any way he could be pardoned and retire from outlawry without going to prison” (p. 151). While in town, “Butch “became interested in a young girl. Ardythe (sic) Kennelly has written a charming book, Good Morning, Young Lady, which she claims is the true story of this quaint love affair. Miss Kennelly has given me a picture of that girl, but I cannot use her real name.”
The story of young Dorney Leaf and good ol’ Butch Cassidy has a few flaws, but Kennelly’s command of Deep POV is superlative, and the novel is full of the Old West, historic Salt Lake City and the awful laundry job, and minor characters who are so vividly drawn, they almost take up too much space in Dorney’s story. Her little cousin Jetta is heartbreaking and all too believable, historically. Schooner Bill and the occasional Native American add local color and authenticity to the tale.
Good news! I just checked goodreads and found MORE fans of this novel. The average rating is 4.29 of 5 stars; 31 people rated it; nine of them posted reviews. Woot! I am not alone, after all. To wit,
Lizzie: “It’s a coming of age story set in Utah at the turn of the 20th century, kind of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn but not so hard edged…There’s a lot of funny/sad dialog with her passive-aggressive relatives, and some other interesting characters.”
Lacy: “ a beautiful Western/Fairy Tale” with a selfless young heroine
Kathleen Cooper: “an old-fashioned novel with lots of plotlines, set in Utah at the end of the cowboy era”
Gardengal: “I first read it as a teen – then shared our heroine’s misery since I also worked in an industrial laundry!”
Tawny: “seriously old-school. The characters are fascinating though. Some great historical folklore weaved throughout.”
Sharon Zink: “a story that turns out just right. Set in frontier days in Salt Lake City. They don’t write them like this any more.”
Goodreads makes it easy for me to “stalk” these book lovers, “friend” them and follow their other reviews. Ah, the internet is a good thing! But now I am sad: Ardyth Kennelly was alive until 2005, and I could have written to her, had I searched for her online and found her. I’d have told her how much I love her novel. Oh, forgive me, aging authors everywhere! If only, if only I’d had half a brain to contact her while she yet lived!
Here’s the review that led me to Susan:
Review By Susan Sloate, Author, FORWARD TO CAMELOT and STEALING FIRE VINE VOICE on June 29, 200
The editorial review (note: no longer visible at the site) is wrong: This is NOT the book which prompted William Goldman’s screenplay, BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID. In fact, two works about Butch Cassidy could hardly be less similar than these two — but no matter. GOOD MORNING, YOUNG LADY is a delightful and romantic story of a girl who believes her true love will find her. Her childhood fantasies are mixed up with Butch Cassidy, and news stories about his exploits continually remind her he’s out there somewhere. But the girl has to grow up and face reality, as she does, in Salt Lake City, Utah, in the form of her overworked (much) older sister and her nasty, spoiled niece. When she does finally grow up, there are two suitors for her hand — and yes, Butch Cassidy himself is one of them.
To say more would spoil the read, but few books I’ve ever read have entranced me more than this one. I first read it over 20 years ago and have kept a copy by my side ever since. This is a book that deserves to be a much-read classic — it’s beautifully written, alive with many fascinating characters — and yet somehow has gotten lost in the shuffle. It should be brought back, triumphantly, for all girls everywhere to dream with. Like LITTLE WOMEN, it speaks to generations.
Don’t miss it — GOOD MORNING, YOUNG LADY tells us that dreams DO come true, and sometimes in the most unexpected ways …
Carol’s amazon review :
At 12, I found this novel and loved it so much, I read it every year thereafter, until in my 20s, my college lit professor told me it was the worst maudlin, purple prose he’d ever seen. I took a decade or two off from the novel, read it again in my 40s, and loved it all over again. Flawed? Well, so was The Sea Wolf, a Jack London novel this professor had us read. London and Kennelly were near-contemporaries, with different views of America. Kennelly apparently didn’t believe in the existence of evil, and her love of humanity infused every character she wrote about, from the town eccentric, Schooner Bill, who’d tip his hat and smile at all he’d meet, to the historical Butch Cassidy and his buddies, to the ladies who worked in the laundromat and the wife of a violent drunk who lived next door. So many all-too-human and flawed people find a home in this novel, and Kennelly brings them all to life with great detail and affection.
For many years, I regarded the ending of the novel as a tragedy. Not until I was married did I recognize the happy ending for what it was. What a great American tale, full of idealism and romance, the liberty and open spaces of the Old West,the American idea that any dream can come true!
A coming of age story, a Western celebrating the American dream of freedom and opportunity, a romance, a downtrodden “Cinderella” growing into a regal young lady who loves great literature — a bookworm like me couldn’t ask for more from one novel. I’ll continue to revisit this novel to the end of my days, no matter how “awful” the literati say it may be.
Good morning, young lady Hardcover — January 1, 1953 by Ardyth Kennelly
And now to pillage wikipedia:
Ardyth Kennelly (April 15, 1912 — January 19, 2005) was an American novelist active in the 1940s and 1950s. She grew up in Glenada, Salt Lake City, Utah, and Albany, Oregon. She She lived for 40 years in downtown Portland, where she held occasional salons and hosted diverse gatherings of selected guests. Her writings reflect the Mormon religion.
Kennelly’s writing career can be divided into three distinct periods:
Improvement Era: 1930 – 1936
Pulp romance: 1936 – 1940
Novelist: 1949 – 1956
Kennelly began her career at the age of 18 with the publication of three poems in Improvement Era in 1930… Although the majority of this work is considered sentimental and focused on love and romance, sub-themes appear as well, hinting at the insight into mature love, motherhood, death, and the restorative working of faith and nature (including human nature) that are expressed in The Peaceable Kingdom.
For the most part, Kennelly’s Improvement Era work is considered naive and conventional in structure and plot. The poems are almost uniformly about romantic love. The stories typically end happily, but are varied in theme.
Kennelly’s first novel, The Peaceable Kingdom, was published in 1949 and sold 500,000 copies. This was followed by four more, with the last published in 1956. These include The Spur (1951), a fictionalized treatment of John Wilkes Booth, and Good Morning Young Lady (1953), a coming of age novel, fictional but including anecdotes based on the life of Butch Cassidy.
Late in life Kennelly developed a second career as an artist, specializing in collages and mixed media constructions. She had two major exhibits. The first was at the Elizabeth Leach Gallery when Kennelly was 84 (approximately 1996), and the Mark Woolley gallery, in Portland, hosted an exhibit in 2000.
Toward the end of her life Kennelly moved to Vancouver to be near her sister, and died there on January 19, 2005 at the age of 92.
I’ll have to do a follow-up blog on my favorite Wild Bunch outlaw, who went straight and became not just a law-abiding citizen but a law-enforcing sheriff – William Ellsworth (Elza Lay, alias William H. McGinnis), desperado, November 25, 1868 – November 10 1934. Born and raised in Ohio , the gentleman brains of some of The Wild Bunch’s most daring escapades. He married and fathered two daughters, one named Marvel, and I hope her middle name didn’t start with S.
Though Butch Cassidy, outlaw, lives on in legend, no one may ever know why the man known as Robert LeRoy Parker became a fugitive from law and justice. No other account will come closer to revealing the truth about him than this one, told by his sister, Lula Parker Betenson. From her we learn about Butch’s hardy forebears, his childhood and young manhood, when he left the family, his poignant homecoming after many years of living as an outlaw..and after as many years of penance. Betenson reveals that her decision to break a 40-years’ sworn silence came after she read articles about Butch containing many distorted quotes from her. Here, then, from the last survivor of Butch Cassidy’s immediate family, is his story. http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/0842512225/ref=dp_olp_all_mbc?ie=UTF8&condition=all