By: Tia Silverthorne Bach and Angela Beach Silverthorne
Publication Date: September 2010
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: February 4, 2011
Saltine crackers smothered with melted marshmallow and peanut butter – a delectable treat that was all Abby’s parents could afford way back when…but it was now the year 2000 and Depression Cookies just didn’t do it for Abby’s daughter Krista. “Mom wanted to give us the world, while reminding us not everyone was as fortunate as we were.” (pg. 43) While there are clearly family struggles in this household, like the cookies the book is named after, this is really a tale of a delectable treat known as “family.”
Depression Cookies opens in the summer of 2000, with the Simmons family gathered around the kitchen table. We meet Abby, husband Bob, their three daughters, Katie, Krista, and Chelsea and granddaughter Janie. It is quickly apparent that there is a lot going on within this family circle, much of it of a loving nature, but there are also hints of conflict.
After a brief introduction of the family (how Abby and Bob met, snippets of their early life, the need for the family to move every few years to follow Bob’s corporate climb), the book takes the reader back to 1985. The early growing pains of the Simmons family, seen through the eyes of both Abby and oldest daughter Krista, make up the bulk of Depression Cookies. Told in the first person, the narrator changes every several pages between Abby and Krista. We see many events, first through the eyes of one, and then the other.
Within a few pages of traveling back to 1985, Bob hints at a possible move to North Carolina. Having been in Tennessee not quite two years, Abby doesn't want to move again and is understandably upset. But the move is soon confirmed, the family uprooted, and the girls are once again trying to settle into a new life and new school. While little Chelsea and middle sister Katie have a fairly easy time adjusting, Krista, who is “almost thirteen…and not a little girl anymore,” (pg. 98) has more at stake as she enters junior high school.
While Abby does her best to hold the family together and deal with the girls’ daily trials and tribulations, (while questioning why Bob works so much, if he even cares about her, and whether he is having an affair), Krista befriends Cindy, one of the popular kids at school. Perhaps to prove her worth to Cindy, Krista is soon falling into line with her new group of friends and goes along with some of the taunts they throw at the less popular kids; something that will come back to haunt her.
Switching between the two female voices, Abby and Krista, works well in this book. There were a few spots early on where I wasn’t sure if Krista was writing from her more mature vantage point in 2000 or as a young teen in 1985. For example, she relates, “The gray clouds began to clear, and curiosity won over melancholy” (pg. 92) and then, a page later changes voices to say, ”Mama,” I said in the faintest of whispers…I don’t like this. These people are weird.” Fortunately, the narration soon settles down into more consistent tones and the story moves along at an entertaining pace.
Part of what made this book so interesting was to see various events through the eyes of a teen and then through the eyes of her mother. When Krista recounts going to her school for the first time and asking her mother why the school was so far away, she is told it’s because “…they have busing in North Carolina,” (pg. 98) Krista is quite annoyed at the brief and unsatisfying explanation. ”Give it to me straight, I wanted to yell.” (pg. 98) but then, several pages later when Abby recalls the same event, she asks, “How in the heck do you explain to a preteen the idiocy of busing? How do you begin to describe the hard feelings surrounding busing without feeling a part of its lunacy?” (pg. 106) The reader sees how frustrated the child is while also understanding the mother’s desire to protect her youngster from the cruel realities of the world.
Although there are several male characters in Depression Cookies (Bob, Abby’s dad), the male view takes a backseat to the various female voices. This is a story about women, their struggles, and their coming together through shared experiences. We see Krista grow for a preteen who wants nothing more than to fit in with the popular kids to a young lady with a new best friend Annie, who teaches her that working hard and getting into a good college is far more important. We also see Abby deal with a marriage that at times seems loveless. Will she stay with Bob for the sake of the kids and will Bob ever come around to loving his family more than his corporate ladder climbing? While the book comes in at a robust 553 pages, the time will go by quickly as you get to know the members of the Simmons family.
Quill says: A heartwarming story of family love, the perfect book to share between a mother and daughter.