4 out of 4 stars
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It takes a great deal of personal courage for a writer to embark on an autobiography, particularly one that exposes all the quirks and eccentricities of a dysfunctional background. However, Loraine Hartley embraces this challenge with consideration and tact. In this book, she narrates her extraordinary story spent living in some of the toughest regions of northern Canada. In doing so, she incorporates the many colorful characters from her large and unconventional family who all contribute and play their part in this engaging tale.
Born to a Scottish mother and a Ukrainian father, the author grew up in British Columbia, along with her two siblings. Her parents divorced when she was in her mid-teens, and this led her to make decisions that would alter the whole course of her life. It is these decisions that provide the basis for this diverse and intriguing account.
Loraine Hartley tells her story from the beginning. With a passion for the desolate wilderness of Canada's northern territories and her unwavering devotion to Christ, she engages the reader in a story of courage and faith. A remarkable lust for life and indomitable strength of character is evident in every chapter. Her life is interesting, littered over the years with laughter, adventure, disappointment, and tears. Yet, through all her experiences, one aspect shines through: the way she tackles things head-on, allowing her faith in God to override any feelings of negativity and despair.
Loraine's father is portrayed as a complex, unpredictable character. He was someone capable of great love and loyalty, and yet often neglectful and insensitive to the needs of his family. The author sensitively navigates many conflicted emotions towards her father and her siblings, especially when disagreements arise. What I appreciated most is how she relates this story without judgment or bias and leaves the reader to form their own opinions.
I was enchanted by Loraine's life and found it difficult to put this book down. She comes across as a brave and adventurous woman, someone independent and strong, ready to take on any challenge. To illustrate: she could spend days alone in a teepee on a mountainside in a roaring blizzard with only a small stove for warmth, with no thought or fear for her safety. Not least of her accomplishments was raising three young boys as a single mother, and for these and other achievements, she surely deserves the greatest admiration and respect.
Although the start of this book was a little slow, it quickly gathered momentum. The story is chronologically linear, making it very easy to follow and enjoyable to read. Sometimes the sheer volume of characters is daunting, and I had to think carefully about how they were all connected on the family tree. For the most part, the grammar was correct, although I did see a consistent overuse of commas throughout the book. There were a few spelling and minor formatting errors which suggest this book would benefit from another round of editing for a more polished result.
My Delightfully Dysfunctional Family appealed to me on multiple levels. One was how the family dynamics were described in great detail - the laughter, the quarrels, the rivalry, and the tears. The other aspect was the author's love of nature and her zeal for hiking on routes less traveled. This appealed to me enormously. It sparked an interest to explore colder regions which I have never previously entertained, and I even consulted a map to see exactly where certain places were located. For readers with feelings of wanderlust, this book would undoubtedly be inspiring. It also would appeal to religious people who, like Loraine, keep their faith foremost in their minds and rely heavily on prayer. This book would be more enjoyable for more mature readers; younger ones may seek something a little more thrilling and fast-paced. There was no sex, some moderate domestic violence, and occasional swearing which was in context and did not detract from the story at all.
I cannot think of any reason why this book deserves anything less than a full 4 out of 4 stars. Although Loraine describes her family as dysfunctional, it might be argued that by today's standards, it is quite normal. In any case, I enjoyed reading her inspirational story and cannot fault its presentation in any way.
My Delightfully Dysfunctional Family
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