The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less

After watching the lovely movie inspired by this book (Julianne Moore, directed by Jane Anderson, 2005) I broke my usual rule and read the book to see if there were more crumbs of the story to hoover up. Indeed there were, more bits of Evelyn Ryan’s poems and snippets from her contesting, along with the discovery after her death that she had married Kelly at 6 in the morning on a Thanksgiving in the 1930s, meaning that she had already been pregnant with Lea Anne at the time, necessitating the wedding and throwing her plans for college and writing a newspaper column to the winds.

The book treats the father much more lightly than the cartoonish character Woody Harrelson plays, and Evelyn begins to control her winnings earlier in the story than simply handing them over to the man who will drink them away. Also included is a painfully honest assessment of the family’s problems when Evelyn asks the college to reconsider their not extending scholarships to her children since she’s working part time and Kelly is retired, flat out stating that he is an alcoholic who drank up most of their money and if it hadn’t been for her contesting, the family never would have made it.