Audiobook Review | “Looking for Betty MacDonald” written and narrated by Paula Becker

Posted Friday, 28 April, 2017 by jorielov , , , , 3 Comments

Audiobook Review Badge made by Jorie in Canva.

Acquired Digital Audiobook by: I am a new blog tour hostess with Audiobookworm Promotions wherein I have the opportunity to receive audiobooks for review or adoption (reviews outside of organised blog tours) and host guest features on behalf of authors and narrators alike. The Egg and I blog tour marks my second tour wherein I have become quite happily surprised how much I am now keen on listening to books in lieu of reading them in print. My journey into audiobooks was prompted by a return of my chronic migraines wherein I want to offset my readings with listening to the audio versions.

I received a complimentary audiobook copy of “Looking for Betty MacDonald” via the publicist at Audiobookworm Promotions (of whom was working directly with the narrator/author Paula Becker) in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Why I wanted to listen to this biography of Betty MacDonald:

I suppose I wanted to give myself a capstone to my listening hours spent inside the world of Betty MacDonald; as the narratives were capturing of my attention for the past several months. I had a rough start with them before the close of 2016 (mostly due to personal circumstances which took me away from books in general) but by the time I entered The Plague and I; I had found my footing. I had a feeling it might be a good idea to listen to this biography if only to have closure on the journey and to listen to someone else trying to find Betty of whom I think has remained a bit shadowed in history. Her memoirs have remained in print but how much of the real Betty do any of us really and truly know!? I wondered if she might have kept a few things hidden; private and away from the eyes of the public.

I was originally supposed to host an interview attached to this review – somewhere along the way, I completely forgot about it. When I had three weeks of struggling through a bout of pollen allergies (late March/early April) all hope of sorting this interview out went out the window as I missed the deadline. I can only hope the author would understand if she sees this note now on my review. Just getting back to a place where I could pick up books again without fear of sneezing half a lung out of my chest was a joy in of itself! Pollen is such a horrid allergy but sometimes it provides a blunt entrance to Spring. Thankfully, I could find something else to appreciate about Spring this year and that was a renewal of balance and of finding my way with reading and blogging once again.

I am unsure what drew my interest into the MacDonald memoirs initially; it’s so long ago now since I first queued them into my schedule. One thing is for certain, I won’t soon forget my time listening to her quirkified memoirs and her resilience to get through everything which came across her path to overcome. There is strength in listening to someone’s story which grew bolder in adversity to recognise there are moments that will test our resolves but it’s how we rise to greet those obstacles and surpass them that gives us a proper sense of what we can humbling say was a period of growth and learning.

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Audiobook Review | “Looking for Betty MacDonald” written and narrated by Paula BeckerLooking for Betty MacDonald
Subtitle: The Egg, The Plague, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and I

Betty Bard MacDonald (1907-1958), the best-selling author of The Egg and I and the classic Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle children's books, burst onto the literary scene shortly after the end of World War II. Readers embraced her memoir of her years as a young bride operating a chicken ranch on Washington's Olympic Peninsula, and The Egg and I sold its first million copies in less than a year. The public was drawn to MacDonald's vivacity, her offbeat humor, and her irreverent take on life.

In 1947, the book was made into a movie starring Fred MacMurray and Claudette Colbert, and spawned a series of films featuring MacDonald's Ma and Pa Kettle characters.

MacDonald followed up the success of The Egg and I with the creation of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, a magical woman who cures children of their bad habits, and with three additional memoirs: The Plague and I (chronicling her time in a tuberculosis sanitarium just outside Seattle),Anybody Can Do Anything (recounting her madcap attempts to find work during the Great Depression), and Onions in the Stew (about her life raising two teenage daughters on Vashon Island).

Author Paula Becker was granted full access to Betty MacDonald's archives, including materials never before seen by any researcher. Looking for Betty MacDonald, the first biography of this endearing Northwest storyteller, reveals the story behind the memoirs and the difference between the real Betty MacDonald and her literary persona.

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing


on 14th September, 2016

Length: 8 hours 10 minutes (unabridged)

Published By: Post Hypnotic Press (@Post_Hypnotic)

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my review of looking for betty macdonald:

Becker brings back to life what has allured readers for generations about Betty MacDonald. She proposed part of our curiosity about Betty is linked to the places in which she resided. In many ways, I think she might be onto something, as one of the quirky bits of the MacDonald memoirs I’ve listened too these past months, is how wherever Betty lived, the persona of her abodes were as wicked original as her own personality. Becker first discovered Betty through her childhood reading adventures with the Piggle-Wiggle books. I must admit, I never came across these books myself – even though I practically lived most of my childhood in my local library and/or the local bookstores.

What was interesting is how Becker herself found herself rooted into the memoirs inside The Plague and I – which was something that I found true for myself. I didn’t warm to The Egg and I – not in the way I felt whilst reading the other volumes. It is the one volume I opted out of reviewing – not simply due to feeling I couldn’t sort out what to write about it as I had mixed feelings and impressions; but due to personal circumstances interfering with my listening hours (ie. my father’s stroke). Hence why I hosted an interview instead. I decided I wanted to end my journey with Betty by seeing what Becker felt about Betty whilst she took the plunge into the woman’s life. She did not disappoint me – as her narration has the same wicked quirks to it’s delivery as much as the narratives of Betty’s gave us this unique window into her life. Becker brought to life observations I had noticed myself: she had a certain sharp wit and her humour had an acidic tone to it which might break interest to most but makes the rest of us crackle with laughter! I think you have to have a funny bone which is tuned into the absurdity of ordinary life and how sometimes, despite your best intentions to the contrary, you find yourself unable to have an ordinary life! Laughs.

I loved too, how through her research into Betty, the one connective thread between her travels and her intuitive instinct to seek out more of Betty than perhaps Betty might have felt someone would endeavour to find are the homes and land where Betty resided. It wasn’t just a passing fancy of wanting to be ‘where’ Betty had once been herself but to embrace the setting and the land where portions of her life had been lived. You can gather a lot about someone by the places they called home. Sometimes even the bits you know about someone come fuller to life just by visiting a locale and I think this is true of Becker who retraced Betty’s footsteps. I could definitely see Betty shying away from fame! I was not a bit surprised when Becker mentioned that Betty’s unexpected fame might have upset the writer more than people would think as it wasn’t an end result she had sought.

I had a giggle over listening to how Betty’s childhood account of personality from her teachers was a bit similar to my own! My teachers were infamous for saying I had a strong independent streak and I approached things that interested me rather than appreciating everything brought to my attention. I suppose it’s true: if you have your own mind, you tend to like to make up your own opinion about things you discover and come across. I think this is partially why I enjoyed listening to her memoirs: she has a smart way of expressing herself through earnest honesty and a frankness that is oft-times overlooked in today’s society.

I was surprised she didn’t entirely believe her story was worth writing down, much less publishing. Although, I think even this humble awareness that she discredited her own life as being strictly too ordinary to catch reader’s attention proves again how Betty never took herself too seriously. She had a lot of serious things happening to her and her family; but overall, I gathered the sense she didn’t focus too much on the particulars of what vexed her or the obstacles which she had to overcome. She simply rose to the occasions as they came along and went on as if nothing too arduous happened at all. She focused on the good times and tried not to overly think about the bad times, except to relate how during the hardest moments of your life, your going to be tested past what you think you can handle.

I felt it was sad the only reason she wrote Onions in the Stew was to make good on a previous commitment when she really wanted to write a novel. She had to make amends for the advance she had already received – which in my mind, felt like she had sequestered herself into a routine of memoirs which no longer held the interest of her heart. This was originally going to to be the title of her novel but instead, she titled her last memoir if only she could come out from under her publisher and make amends in the process.

One thing that did not surprise me is how Betty did not temper her voice in her personal and professional correspondences as much as she did in her memoirs. I think she was a woman with a fiercely independent mind and a manner of speaking which most might mistake for brash and indifferent; but she simply had a way with insinuating the truth with a broad acceptance of there isn’t such a thing as ‘being too honest’. I am unsure why, but when the ending chapters started to focus on Betty’s end of life moments, I had to gloss over those passages. I think because for me, she’s still alive in my mind and I’m not ready to learn about how she passed. The joy of listening to this biography is finding a way to say ‘good-bye’ to Betty and to acknowledge how much she gave back to her readers. She put everything into her writings even if she never did fully realise her writerly dreams (as a novelist) she did do the impossible by writing back to back memoirs full of the flavourful antidotes of her family as only she could tell them.

on the writings of becker who found betty:

Becker has a clever way of interpreting the long histories of the MacDonald family. She bridged the gap between what is contained in the memoirs and what is left out of them quite well. She even cross-examines the two resources: her research with what Betty told us herself. It’s a great co-balance of knowing where the MacDonald memoirs let off and where her research continues to tie everything back together. Including family details of marriage and careers; where they were living and why they moved around.

Becker took us back through each of the memoir’s publishing histories – we get to learn the stories behind the books themselves, but also of how Betty’s books were opted for film. Including the tidbits about how Claudette Corbert was part of the Ma and Pa Kettle interpretation. As you listen to the chronicling of this publishing history, you get to see what was happening behind the scenes including how Betty felt about her stories and life’s story especially gaining so much notoriety.

There was a moment whilst I was listening to Becker’s notes on Betty’s life where I honestly thought this was the hidden extended history of Betty’s life. She truly tapped into the gaps which you never knew existed in the original memoirs; rounding out living history and written history to give us a better impression of Betty. I was especially keen on how she voiced this biography; it befit the backdrop of what she narrated but moreso, she came across so authentically it was almost as if she had channeled Betty herself.

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specifically in regards to the audiobook:

As I am relatively new to reviewing audiobooks and listening to them with a greater frequency than of the past, I am appreciative of Ms Jess providing a cursory outline of how best to articulate my listening hours on behalf of this audiobook and the others I shall be blogging about or reviewing in future. I’ve modified the suggestions to what I felt were pertinent to respond too on my own behalf as well as keeping to the questions I felt were relevant to share.

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How the Novel sounded to me as it was being Read: (theatrical or narrative)

Becker had a personable voice which granted this to a narrative performance which felt like you were sitting over a cuppa tea and sharing a conversation with someone about their memories of unearthing the true woman behind the memoirs. I liked how she made the performance feel comfortable and informative; but not as if she were recollecting the facts but rather she was presenting a person she had come to love through her research and her travels. She took childhood appreciation and turned into an adult’s understanding of a complicated woman. You can gather all of this as you listened to her narrating her own take on who Betty MacDonald was to everyone.

Preference after listening to re-Listen or pick up the book in Print?

I think it might be fun one day to pick up the print copy and to re-listen to this audiobook! I love doing that but I rarely get the opportunity. I liked Becker’s dictation so much, I think it would only enhance the joy I had in listening to the story!

In closing, would I seek out another Paula Becker audiobook?

I truly hope this isn’t the first nor last narration by Becker as I would definitely be keen on listening to more of her narrations. Especially for other works of Non-Fiction as she makes listening to a Biography quite enjoyable as it has it’s own rhythm and pace which makes the context of the book approachable.

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 This blog tour is courtesy of Audiobookworm Promotions:

Host badge for Audiobookworm Promotions.

Whilst participating on:

Looking for Betty MacDonald audiobook blog tour via Audiobookworm PromotionsThis is the second of many reviews I’ll be showcasing on behalf of audiobooks – not just through the lovely tours via Audiobookworm Promotions, but through selecting audiobooks through my local library as well as the ones I hope to purchase in the future, too! If your an avid audiobook listener, I welcome your commentary and recommendations especially for Non-Fiction titles and/or Biographies, Autobiographies and Memoir you think I might enjoy seeking out next!

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{SOURCES: Cover art of “Looking for Betty MacDonald”, book synopsis, narrator biography, narrator photo,  author biography, author photo and the Audiobookworm Promotions badge and the audiobook tour badge were all provided by Audiobookworm Promotions and used with permission. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets embedded by codes provided by Twitter. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: Audiobook Narrator Interview Banner and the Comment Box Banner.}

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Friday, 28 April, 2017 by jorielov in Audiobook Narrator Interview, Audiobookworm Promotions, Blog Tour Host, Memoir, Non-Fiction, Vignettes of Real Life

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3 responses to “Audiobook Review | “Looking for Betty MacDonald” written and narrated by Paula Becker

  1. A very belated thanks for participating in our audiobook tour. I, too, found that last chapter very moving. Heather Henderson does such an amazing job in bringing Betty to life that one feels as though she’s still with us. Having been immersed in Betty’s world through the production of those four memoirs, when we got to recording that last chapter of Paula Becker’s biography, it felt like she has just passed.

  2. I would love to hear Becker’s voice reading her book! It sounds like it added yet another dimension to this rich celebration of Betty’s life and work.

    I read the bio before I read the memoirs … so now I need to go back and do some comparing. I also am somewhat sad that Betty never got to write the novel she really wanted to.

    • Hallo, Hallo Lory!

      Yes! I truly felt Becker’s voice was the *best!* compliment to Betty’s authentic voice! She truly won me over and cemented a beautiful ending to my readings / listenings of Betty’s legacy! What upset me most was how she wasn’t able to truly fulfill her destiny as a writer; she had to table her own instincts in order to satisfy an owed debt so to speak and in so doing; she had to alter what she was naturally yielding to create. I do muse now what would have been the ‘real’ Onions in the Stew vs. what is now presented as such. Also, I struggled with her ‘end of life’ chapters. You had the blessing of arriving at those ahead of the memoirs themselves; so in some ways, it might be easier to go back now. For me, she still feels so very much ‘alive’ in heart and mind, it was quite the shock. Then again, her final chapter was such a difficult one.

      Thanks for stopping by! I do hope you get the chance to hear Becker! There might be a preview on Audible?!

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