I mentioned I started reading 'How to Catch a Frog' by Heather Ross a while back and in all honesty, I enjoyed it so much I stopped reading it so that I could save it up to take on a weekend away and to read on the way up to Fat Quarterly Retreat. Each time I opened this book, I was totally immersed in her stories and memories.
She doesn't pull any punches. The memories are truthful so not always happy, sometimes challenging and an honest portrayal of an alternative family life, warts and all. Her tone is sage and funny. I am around the same age and I found a lot to identify with despite a childhood in Yorkshire and Devon rather thanVermont. You can find a brief description of her background on her website to get an idea of where the stories are coming from.
I know Heather Ross through her fabric designs and reading this book gave me a hindsight understanding of her themes and ideas. The free flowing natural sketchy drawings all have their origin from her formative experiences. The horses, the frogs, the mermaids come from a life of outdoors, freedom and a love of nature.
Her determined and tenacious personality comes through amidst the unstructured childhood and the adhoc experiences at college and work. She is resilient through all her adventures practical and pragmatic about events, funny and forthright to those around her. The 'makes' are diversions along the way, cul de sacs to turn off into whilst reading her story. The drawings are occasional and there were times when I wished for a photograph, especially in the third chapter when a black and white picture of their school house is referenced- it seemed to communicate so much about the way in which they were living and her mother's attitude to parenting. Ultimately my imagination filled in the gaps and I also wondered if seeing an actual photo would have been to invasive into another family's life.
I identified with a lot throughout despite the obvious differences. I was sad for the book to end: its an emotional journey, I cried reading it on the train and I finished it wanting to read the whole thing again. Recommended.