This quirky but thoroughly enjoyable and uplifting book manages to include references to Frank
Sinatra, Shinto priests, Lubbock, Texas, Nazis, and The Sorbonne - and somehow it all works. It is the story of ‘what one unwanted child can do with a drop of God’s joy.’
Happy Maisy Coleman (Happy is her actual first name) tells us the story of life with her
Grammy and her mother Patsy beginning in the 1950’s. Grammy intended to be a missionary,
but she became a millionaire instead. Her daughter, Patsy, was born out of wedlock. Maisy was
born to Patsy out of wedlock, too. It may seem as though history is repeating itself, but in fact, the circumstances could hardly be more different than they were for Grammy and Patsy.
The three of them move next door to Frank Sinatra in California. Patsy is quite the party girl, having the time of her life with Frank’s friends, including Dean Martin and Elvis. After too many years of sex and drugs, Patsy has a breakdown. It takes months to get her back on her feet. Grammy, who has often been at odds with her daughter, manages to coax Patsy back
into the land of the living. Sensing that her wealth is contributing to Patsy’s decline,
Grammy donates most of it to the Salvation Army and moves her girls to Lubbock, Texas, where
they can live a quieter lifestyle.
Patsy takes a job as a crossing guard while still on tenuous emotional ground. She meets
someone who will change her life – Dr. Ursula, who teaches classes on the care and nurturing of
orchids. Dr. Ursula is a prison camp survivor who suffered unspeakably at the hands of the
Nazis. She literally becomes a part of the Coleman family and learns to let go of her past. “I don’t know which is harder… to let go of the pain in my heart or to let in all of the love in this room”. It is through Dr. Ursula that Grammy learns how to love Patsy despite her wild ways, and to bring out the best in Maisy.
There is a terrible falling out in the Coleman family, and Grammy and Maisy move in with Dr.
Ursula. Patsy is left alone to deal with her issues, which is the most daunting task she’s ever had to undertake. This is when she meets the one man who can turn her world around, Aaron. He has much wisdom to impart to Patsy, and for the first time, she finds she can be vulnerable and still survive.
Interspersed throughout the story are references to a book written by Maisy’s great-grandfather, the Reverend Happy Porter Coleman. In his younger years, he drank and caroused, bringing shame upon his family and the churches he pastored. But one day a light dawned on Rev. Coleman, and he discovered the true nature of love. He wrote about his experience and faith in his book, Famished Soul: How to Heal from Within. He speaks in deceptively simple terms, but his words have impact, enough to give inspiration to all who read them. There are times when I found these references to be a bit much, perhaps even a bit preachy, but it is mostly worth hearing.
This is a pleasant read, this quiet little book with the powerful message of joy.