Summary and book reviews of The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio by Terry Ryan

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio

How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less

By Terry Ryan

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio
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  • Hardcover: Apr 2001,
    352 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 2002,
    352 pages.

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Book Summary

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio introduces Evelyn Ryan, an enterprising woman who kept poverty at bay with wit, poetry, and perfect prose during the "contest era" of the 1950s and 1960s.

Stepping back into a time when fledgling advertising agencies were active partners with consumers, and everyday people saw possibility in every coupon, Terry Ryan tells how her mother kept the family afloat by writing jingles and contest entries. Mom's winning ways defied the Church, her alcoholic husband, and antiquated views of housewives. To her, flouting convention was a small price to pay when it came to securing a happy home for her six sons and four daughters. Evelyn, who would surely be a Madison Avenue executive if she were working today, composed her jingles not in the boardroom, but at the ironing board.

By entering contests wherever she found them -- TV, radio, newspapers, direct-mail ads -- Evelyn Ryan was able to win every appliance her family ever owned, not to mention cars, television sets, bicycles, watches, a jukebox, and even trips to New York, Dallas, and Switzerland. But it wasn't just the winning that was miraculous; it was the timing. If a toaster died, one was sure to arrive in the mail from a forgotten contest. Days after the bank called in the second mortgage on the house, a call came from the Dr Pepper company: Evelyn was the grand-prize winner in its national contest -- and had won enough to pay the bank.

Graced with a rare appreciation for life's inherent hilarity, Evelyn turned every financial challenge into an opportunity for fun and profit. From her frenetic supermarket shopping spree -- worth $3,000 today -- to her clever entries worthy of Erma Bombeck, Dorothy Parker, and Ogden Nash, the story of this irrepressible woman whose talents reached far beyond her formidable verbal skills is told in The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio with an infectious joy that shows how a winning spirit will triumph over the poverty of circumstance.

Chapter Three: Supermarket Spree

Our new home at 801 Washington looked un-furnished even after we moved in. We had no money to buy appliances, let alone furniture. But in the months after winning the Western Auto contest, Mom entered a slew of other contests and won enough things to make the house seem functional: an automatic coffeemaker, a Deepfreeze home freezer, a Westinghouse refrigerator, a Motorola radio, two wall clocks, three wool blankets, a box of household tools, a set of kitchen appliances, and three pairs of Arthur Murray shoes.

Many of these prizes were not what Mom had been aiming for. The wall clocks, for example, were seventh prizes in a contest whose first prize was a station wagon. She was always trying to replace the dilapidated family Chevy with something a bit more dependable. Just to start the car most mornings required a ten-person push so Dad could pop the clutch and rumble off to work in a cloud of blue smoke. Even so, the two wall clocks didn't go to ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews
Author Blurb Anne Lamott
Prize Winner is the most charming and inspirational book I've read in a long time. It bursts with stories of soul, humanity, cunning, courage, and humor in the face of desperate times, like the shopping cart heaped full of groceries won by the author's indomitable mother.

Author Blurb Patricia Cornwell
Terry Ryan's story of her amazing, prize-winning mother is simply fabulous. The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio is a wonderful snapshot of mid-twentieth-century America -- a heartwarming, marvelous story that deserves its place alongside the best nonfiction in modern literature.

Publishers Weekly

[A] quirky, heartwarming celebration of one woman's resourcefulness, and the wacky enticements of 1950s consumer culture... this updated version of Cheaper by the Dozen couldn't be better fodder for the TV and radio talk show circuit.

Reader Reviews
Cordelia

I enjoyed the realness of the book. It was told very well, always engaging, and the reader (I listened to it on audio tape) was fabulous! Evelyn is a hero: to her children, her husband, her friends, and fellow Contesters. She is a hero because she ...   Read More

Mike Fawcett

The book brought back an era I lived through, and a place that was not too far from where I lived at the time. We never entered contests; my parents were convinced that no one ever actually won them, and they ...   Read More

Virginia Selanik
Terry Ryan's book rather reminded me of one of my favorites...."Cheaper by the Dozen". It was just
as compelling, and just as much frun to read. The only differences between the two books were the childre
children and their ciircumstances.......   Read More

jack raywood
I did not read this book. My wife did. I have never seen anyone read a book as quickly as she did this one. She appeared to really enjoy it. Could not put it down. She shared many parts of it w me. The parts she shared were really well written ...   Read More

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