Little Heathens

  • by Mildred Armstrong Kalish
  • Narrated by Ruth Ann Phimister
  • 9 hrs and 25 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Debut author Mildred Armstrong Kalish, a retired English professor, records her childhood recollections in clear, concise prose. Voted one of the 10 Best Books of 2007 by the New York Times Book Review, Kalish's Little Heathens is a compelling memoir of her hardscrabble life on an Iowa farm during the Great Depression. As foreclosure fragments her family, five-year-old Mildred and her three siblings find refuge with her grandparents - God-fearing farmers, enjoying a modest retirement. When the "little heathens" flush the seniors and their child-rearing skills out of retirement, the grandparents deploy tough but loving bedtime schedules, Bible and prayer routines, and plenty of character-building chores. Having no electricity or indoor plumbing and with little heat or money on the farm, Mildred learns to find joy in the priceless blessings of life.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Makes you appreciate today's living

Love this story! Only reason I didn't give a 5 star is because some parts are better in the written forum. Recipes are hard to write down while I'm driving!! If people had grown up in this way of living, I believe the world would be a better place.
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- Susan

A glimpse of simpler times on an Iowa farm...

What made the experience of listening to Little Heathens the most enjoyable?

The narrator is perfection & really gets you involved in the story, a true re-telling of a girl growing up with her 3 siblings & her mother on her grandparent's farm in Iowa-along with a large extended family in the Great Depression. How they all 'made do' and had happy lives even through privation is amazing. Until late in the 30s, they had no electricity, no indoor plumbing, survived on food they raised/grew on the farm with the exception of coffee, sugar & salt. This is truly a case of the author passing through the fire and coming out 'refined to gold'. She takes us through to her marriage, her training as a teacher (she taught in a university for a while) and her thankfulness for the lessons she learned growing up in hard times.Very rewarding, interesting book.


Who was your favorite character and why?

Mildred, the author of the story. She always made the best of the hand she was dealt, without grumbling. I felt as though I had found a new friend. The author must have been in her 80s when it was written & her memory is amazing. I doubt if I had been thrust into her life that I could have made such a success of it as she did. She discusses just about every facet of her life, which fascinated me, since I love social history, the little things that make up people's daily life. This is a social history that the younger generation would do well to listen to, since it is so different to the way we live today-like day and night. The people who survived the Great Depression are leaving us daily, so we should ask questions of our grandparents about this period in history before it is too late.


Which scene was your favorite?

Hard to decide, but I think when the whole family got together to cook for a holiday or some special occasion & everyone helped, even the small children-the way they shared the work. There were chores for all but the smallest kids on the farm every day so everyone felt they were of help & had self-worth. There was such a feeling of family unity & love.


Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

If this isn't inappropriate, when Mildred began to develop a woman's shape at age 11 and when she had her first menstrual period, she was terrified for no one had prepared her for this. Finally she told her mother, who never explained why it happened or even that it would happen every month, but showed her how to use what passed for sanitary napkins when it happened again. Parents did not tell their kids the facts of life, they were left to get it 'behind the barn' and they were also taught to be ashamed of their bodies. How sad. We have gone to the opposite now where nothing much is kept secret, but this was very affecting.


Any additional comments?

I treasure this book. Since it has so many 'layers', I will certainly listen to it again & again finding details that I may have missed. I will look for other books narrated by this same fine lady, Ruth Ann Phimister. It will probably be one of my 'comfort food' books that I listen to when I am feeling blue. Anyone who is interested in how life used to be mustn't miss this book.

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- Kathleen McKinney

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-23-2008
  • Publisher: Recorded Books