Good Morning, Young Lady by Ardyth Kennelly

This is the only book I’ve re-read more than dozen times. Longing for a book club of fellow fans who’d discuss the story with me, I’d even buy out-of-print copies online and send them to friends–none of whom liked the book! (Still in shock and awe, I am.)

At Amazon, only one other person reviewed (and loved!) this novel, so I stalked her. Susan Sloate (a novelist herself) and I now are cyber pals.

good morning young lady

Before the advent of Amazon, I lost an ebay 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.

I checked goodreads and found MORE fans of this novel. The average rating is 4.29 of 5 stars; 44 people rated it; ten 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.”

Review By Susan Sloate, Author, FORWARD TO CAMELOT and STEALING FIRE

….. 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 …

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 is my own Amazon review (now deleted along with every single review I ever posted of anything on Amazon due to unspecified “violations” of reviewing policies):

At 13, 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

Here is the extended version:

The title, “Good Morning, Young Lady,” is taken from the song “Goodbye, Old Paint.” The song has a surprisingly important place in the novel. It’s totally killer. Especially near the last page. I’m dying to talk about how much I love this ending–but, SPOILER. While I shudder in horror at several aspects of the cataclysmic climax, I appreciate the final pages as the most satisfying and fantastic possible resolution to the torments of Dorney Leaf. And this song, popular in its day, is the final stroke of the brush on a masterpiece.

In the novel, it’s “Good morning young lady, my horse he won’t stand,” but I can’t find those lyrics online.

Goodbye, old Paint, I’m a-leavin’ Cheyenne.
My foot’s in the stirrup, my rein in my hand
I’m a-leavin’ Cheyenne, I’m off to Montan’ ….
We ride all day ´till the sun´s going down
I´m gonna be glad to get out of this town.

“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.

The Cinderella theme of “Good Morning, Young Lady” riveted me. Dorney’s mom dies in childbirth and Dorney is raised by sisters old enough to be her aunts. Dorney is a quiet, dreamy, bookish girl, enamored of stories told by 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 professor who nurtures her love of books. He’s like a fairy godmother with the books, the “Queen” — oops, no spoilers! Who exactly is this young woman known to locals as the Queen? The queen of what? You’ll have to read the book to see. (You may never again be able to see a box of chocolates without thinking of Alma Morelewski.)

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 lawbreakers, all in the name of freedom and life on horseback in Big Sky country?

Kennelly’s command of Deep POV (Point of View) 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. Schooner Bill and the occasional Native American add local color and authenticity to the tale.

Kennelly includes my favorite Wild Bunch outlaw “Elza Lay,” who went straight and became not just a law-abiding citizen but a law-enforcing sheriff. William Ellsworth (aka Elza Lay) 1868 – 1934, rorn and raised in Ohio, the “gentleman brains” of some of The Wild Bunch’s most daring escapades, married and fathered two daughters, one named Marvel, and I hope her middle name didn’t start with S.

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 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.

I thought of this when a friend emailed me, “Carol I think in retrospect I shouldn’t have been so supportive (to you) of (a certain novel)  I love the book and wanted to share.  I’m super aggressive at times, and it’s hard to back off. Working on it…” 🙂

Uh-oh. Super aggressive about promoting books we love: Guilty!

Guilty, too, of harboring affection for outlaws. Thieves! Bad boys! Shame on me.


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.”


And now to pillage wikipedia:

Ardyth Kennelly (April 15, 1912 — January 19, 2005) was an American novelist active in the 1940s and 1950s. …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.

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.

About carolkean

novelist, reviewer, editor, book critic for Liberty Island and Perihelion Science Fiction; native prairie/guerilla gardener; champion of liberty, indie authors & underdogs; one of the top two reviewers in Editors &Preditors Poll 2015; Amazon Vine, NetGalley Top Reviewer
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17 Responses to Good Morning, Young Lady by Ardyth Kennelly

  1. John L. Monk says:

    I’m fascinated by this book now. Totally have to read it. I wanna be in the cool club 🙂


  2. carolkean says:

    I love you John. But you would not love this book, unless you love the Old West, outlaws, lots of sub-plots and detail in a historical novel, and Cinderella stories. BUT if you continue to be nice to me, I’ll find another out of print copy and mail it to you if your local library doesn’t have a copy. 🙂 Too bad the copy I sent my cousin in Arizona got “lost in the mail” when she sent it back to me. (I think she fed the book to a goat, but I have no evidence, and she owns horses but not goats.)


  3. Susan Sloate says:

    Carol — I actually have the book sitting on my night table right now–have decided to re-visit it again–it’s SOOO good–btw, I’ve had no trouble finding copies on Amazon and other places like Alibris. They should be easy to find, and cost almost nothing (where are you looking, that you can’t find them?) Did you happen to notice, btw, that Ardyth Kennelly’s birthdate is the same day as the sinking of the Titanic??? Fascinating little historic tidbit, though it has probably less than no real significance. Thank you for posting this–more people SHOULD read this book, and if her prose is purple, then the prose of writers I’m reading now is violet, at least!


    • carolkean says:

      Well, it *used* to be almost impossible to find, until ebay, then amazon, entered my life. 🙂 Used copies are cheap but S&H always bring the total to $5 per book. I’ve given away four copies by now, all to people who hated the book. 😦 I never tire of that novel, but after the first ten reads, I started skipping all the Clara Toffelmeier scenes.


      • Susan Sloate says:

        I LOVE the Clara scenes, especially the sweet scene where she and Dorney are walking to work and she’s repeating how nice Joe is being to her and how he’s showing it. Oh, so sweet!


  4. carolkean says:

    Susan, I loved those scenes too, but after the tenth read, I skipped past the part where her mother is bedridden and Clara baby-talks to her. Oh, and Mrs. Luby and her abusive husband and their many kids! Lots of sub-plots and all-too-real minor characters. I love Ishmael and Schooner Bill. I hated, hated, hated Phoebe Bannon, especially after the hundred-dollar bill showed up. But it’s all good. All as real to me as my next-door neighbor. The Queen and her chocolates — what a world Kennelly builds! The novel is all over the map, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.


  5. Nancy Trotic of Sunnycroft Books says:

    Wonderful to find another fan of Ardyth Kennelly! She was my step-great-aunt, and in case you didn’t know it, she left a long unpublished novel when she died, as well as two memoirs. I’m planning to publish the novel this fall, and later on her memoirs. Like GMYL, the new novel (titled “Variation West” and written between about 1977 and 1994) is “all over the map,” as you put it, but that’s the way her books are–and that’s why we love them!


    • carolkean says:

      Nancy, thank you, thank you, for this!! I’m so excited about the unpublished manuscript coming to light. It broke my heart to learn she was still alive in the 1990s and I could have written her fan letters. My copy of the book looked so desiccated and yellowed with age, it never occurred to me that the author herself might not be dead and gone. She does have a following, all these years later. Again, thank you!


      • Nancy Trotic of Sunnycroft Books says:

        Carol, it breaks my heart, too, to know that I’d been living in Portland only a few miles from her for many years and I didn’t take the opportunity to visit her, except when invited to one of her exquisite parties. It’s the biggest regret of my life. To be honest, I didn’t realize what a true genius she was until I began re-reading the manuscript three years ago, along with her previous books. It was then that I realized we could now publish it ourselves, instead of trying to interest a traditional publisher in a long book of literary/historical fiction (which a traditional publisher probably would have cut half of anyway, which would have been tragic). Now Aunt Ardyth and her sister, Marion, are both gone, but they live in our hearts forever.
        I’m sure Aunt Ardyth would have loved fan letters; she corresponded with people a great deal. And I’m sure her following will only increase when her new, mature, and even more fascinating works are published (novel and memoirs).


  6. Hello, Carol. Ardyth’s new novel, “Variation West,” has just been published by Sunnycroft Books! I think fans of her previous novels will love this one, too.

    Best wishes,

    Nancy Trotic
    Sunnycroft Books


  7. Deborah Baldwin says:

    While my friends were reading “Little Women” and “Anne of Green Gables”, I was devourig “Good Morning Young Lady” and “Little Men”. All thanks to my eccentric and book loving Aunt Dode. She also gave me my first Cat Who mystery. A series my son’s had to endure on cassette during our many road trips. “Good Morning Young Lady” has endured as my favorite novel. I bring it out about every ten years. It’s like visiting an old friend, my younger self.



    • carolkean says:

      An old friend, it is – and yes, it’s like visiting our younger selves when we return to beloved books of our childhood. Thank you for commenting! I’d love to have known your Aunt Dode!


  8. Susan Sloate says:

    OK, Carol, I just HAD to read your comment today and then go back to your original post. Again, as we speak, the book is sitting on my night table, and I;m relishing the re-read. I really believe, if you’re going to love this novel, you have to have an irresistibly romantic point of view, because nothing fits this novel like a romantic POV. What I wouldn’t give to have it show up on Kindle!!

    I’ve also since read THE SPUR and loved it. I also read THE PEACEABLE KINGDOM and did not enjoy it nearly as much.

    I wrote you a note yesterday, because a novel of mine is being re-published (under my own imprint, finally!), and I’m excited about it. Let me know if you’re willing to host me here on your blog or in any way let the world know about this novel through your influence–STEALING FIRE, which you read years ago–I’m thrilled about re-publishing it and excited to see where it will go!

    You can reach me at Looking forward to hearing from you!


  9. carolkean says:

    Susan, I’m hunting my inbox for that comment. My kean88 email is so flooded with newsletters, credit card stuff, and spam, I overlook real mail from people I want to hear from – like you!
    I’ve never done blog tours or author interviews, but I occasionally spotlight someone I know, like Dave Hoing (a college friend). Your own publishing imprint? Congratulations!! (Wanna publish me?) 😉 Now that I’m more than half a century old, my views on Ironwolf have shifted, and I’m kinda glad I never published it sooner. Now I can work in a theme that reflects my older and wiser world view (ha). Keep me posted on your pub date and all that!


  10. Amazing Grace says:

    I love this book and all his tales and plots. It was one of my favorites when I was a young teenager. I checked it out of the library, and could not afford to buy it. I have thought about it over the years; then one day, I found it on Amazon. Now, I am trying to remember and find those beloved books of my youth, but the titles and authors are buried among my memories. I have found a few but not many. Good Morning, Young Lady is my youthful favorite.

    Side note to Susan: Isn’t Jetta Dorney’s niece, not her cousin?


    • Susan Sloate says:

      Answer from Susan: Yes, she is Dorney’s niece, as Crystal is, but I thought she was referred to as her cousin in the story, as her age is far more in keeping with a cousin than a niece. But you’re certainly right. Sorry.


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