In writing my memoir, the few independent editors I’ve used along the way have given me lots of excellent advice. The key, according to all of them, is to read, read, read. And they all gave me a reading list, some of which included overlapping titles.
Now I have another to add: Caitlin Shetterly’s Made for You and Me: Going West, Going Broke, Finding Home (Voice, 2011).
This memoir works on so many levels. The author completely reveals her fears, hopes, and disappointments. As I read the story, I never once wondered what she really felt or questioned her honesty. She put it all out there.
Another thing that worked so well was the tension she kept throughout the story. The reader basically knows the story from just reading the title, but Shetterly keeps it flowing with the ups and downs of her journey to and from California. It’s truly a page turner and takes no time at all to get into the story.
In a nutshell, Shetterly is a child of divorce (or rather a teenager of divorce) and has made a fine career for herself in theater, writing, and the radio. After some unsuccessful relationships, she’s even resigned to being single for the rest of her life.
But then she meets the man of her dreams.
After a two-year courtship and a fairytale Maine wedding, she and husband Dan follow their dreams and move out west to Los Angeles. Friends throw a going away party and help the couple pack. Shetterly starts a blog about her new adventure, but never dreams it will soon turn into a nightmare no one could fathom.
Apartments from hell are one thing, but when the recession crashes through California, Dan’s freelance photography jobs–once abundant–dry out. On top of that, the couple learns they’re pregnant.
The face of the recession isn’t an Ivy League graduate or a successful photographer. But Shetterly changes all that in her book. She uses every ingredient in their kitchen cabinets to put food on the table. Dan applies for every job opening he finds in Los Angeles, no matter the salary. And the couple has the new responsibility of caring for their infant son along with their dog and cat.
They face these challenges and more, and finally decide to move back to Maine on what little money they have left. It’s on that trip back across the country that a new chapter in their lives unfolds, which leads Shetterly to write Made for You and Me. I always enjoy learning how books come to fruition and her story of publication is especially fascinating.
Made for You and Me is inspiring in many ways. Shetterly writes about the positive impact of a simple smile, the satisfaction of a nutritious home-cooked meal, and the importance of noticing everyone, no matter the economic status–things many take for granted.
Suping Zhang says
I was reading Peter Hessler’s memoir River Town, and I thought of my friend Ali Swanson whom I lost contact with 15 years ago. We became friends when she was teaching at Qufu Teacher’s University which is close to my home city Yanzhou. I was searching for her information on the internet and then I found your website…Ali has been in my thoughts and hope she still remembers me..:-)
Susan Blumberg-Kason says
I loved River Town! I haven’t read his latest, though, so that’ll be on my 2012 list. I’ve passed your message on to Ali. It’s a small world!!
Stuart Beaton says
Sounds interesting – and it’d certainly be different to the last memoir I read… Deng Xiao Peng’s.
That bored at Olympic levels, and left out all the “interesting” bits!
Susan Blumberg-Kason says
That’s too bad, because Deng certainly had his share of interesting parts! Paris, on the outs with Mao, etc. Maybe someone outside China will write the definitive biography of Deng, just like one was written about Mao (which was quite juicy!).