Susan M. Hoskins
Outskirts Press (2017)
Reviewed by Megan Weiss, YA Reviewer for Reader Views (1/18)
“Molly’s Rocker” by Susan M. Hoskins tells the tale of Mary Molly (Van Meter) Fry. Known by friends and family as simply Molly, the story takes us through Molly’s life from the age of 7 all the way through the end of her life. The story opens and closes in the present, with her grandson and his wife sorting through old junk in the attic of the family property. In the process they find an old grand rocking chair and recordings made by Molly, detailing her life as a child and beyond.
The summary of the book as posed by the back jacket supposes that readers are going to read a story about racism and civil rights in late 19th and early 20th century America, something akin to “To Kill A Mockingbird” perhaps, however, that prominent storyline does not really come into play until the last 50 or so pages of the book. Really, the book takes readers through life as a lower-class farm girl in Kentucky. Readers learn with Molly how to manage house, farm, and family while upholding strong Christian morals and decorum.
While the initial summary is misleading, “Molly’s Rocker” is a decent story. Molly is a likeable and relatable character who reminds me of Laura Ingalls from the “Little House” books I loved as a child. Molly goes through her life learning how important the power of love is in raising a family and maintaining a community. I think this is what the author tried to show when the ideas regarding racism began arising in the latter part of the novel. The character in question she focuses on in this regard is Henry Jackson, who was born just after Lincoln emancipated the slaves. He works for a prominent family and comes to be close friends with Elijah Fry, who marries one of the daughters of his employer, and later remarries Molly after the death of his first wife Mary, during the birth of their third child.
A tragedy occurs in the town that sparked because of a struggle between a drunken white man and a young black serving boy who accidentally spilled some water during his duties as a waiter. The man, who turns out to be running for the Senate, gets physical with the boy, which causes others to join the fray in attempts to restore a peaceful atmosphere. Instead, a fire is started that rips through the entire town, killing at least two people. After this, which takes place in the beginning of the 19th century, more dialogue about the evils of racism enter into the text and context of the story. In all, I don’t think the message assumed by the book summary is that actual message the author was trying to portray. She still portrayed a good one, as life lessons about love, family, and hard work and strife are always worthy things to learn.
“Molly’s Rocker” by Susan M. Hoskins is a book that can be enjoyed by a wide audience of readers, most likely female in gender, from ages of ten to 80. Since the book details Molly’s entire life, there is something to appeal to readers of all aspects of life. Young and old, innocent and wise all have something to learn from the prose.