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Mailbox Surprise

Ever since I was a little kid, I loved getting mail. I used to send off for all sorts of free stuff--informational brochures, political campaign literature, etc. As I got older and began to earn a little money of my own, I began sending for mail-order items, usually toys or (as I got older still) books and magazines. As I got into high school, I had begun writing letters to newspaper editors, congressmen, and organizational leaders. By the time much of the stuff or answers to my letters got to me, I had forgotten that I had written, so running to the mailbox often yielded some surprises.

I still like getting mail. As long as it's not bills, political campaign materials, or information about Medicare supplemental plans and end-of-life final-expense insurance schemes. And I still sometimes find a surprise in the box.

Such was the case this week when I made my daily trek to the mailbox. Opening it, I found a package containing a book for which I had volunteered as a beta reader. Having already read and reviewed the pre-publication manuscript, I didn't expect to receive a copy of the published work. But there it was in my mailbox! A surprise that made my day.

The book is Leora's Dexter Stories: The Scarcity Years of the Great Depression by Joy Neal Kidney. Because I've already posted a review of the book (, I won't take time to rehash its contents. But I just have to say one has to read it to appreciate it. And you don't have to know the individual family members to appreciate and enjoy it. When I first read it, I didn't know any of the people from Adam, but now I feel as though I've known them quite some time.

After all, that was the second time I had read about many of them, especially the five men

who went off to war, three of whom never returned home. That story was covered in Kidney's first book, Leora's Letters: The Story of Love and Loss for an Iowa Family During World War II. (My review of it can be found at

Although the books were written in reverse chronological order, read chronologically they provide a vivid picture of life for not only this family but also millions of other average Americans over nearly three critical decades of our nation's history. Either work would make a fine addition to one's library; together, however, one gets a more complete picture.

Learn more about Kidney, her books, the Freedom Rock project, and more interesting things at her web site,

But the most encouraging surprise for me came when I opened Kidney's book to the page to which a bookmark protruding from the top led me. There I found a personal, handwritten note from the author followed by her autograph. Thank you, Joy, for this double surprise. I can't wait for the next installment in the saga of your family!

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