Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Betsy's Wedding by Maud Hart Lovelace

260 pages
First published 1955, reprinted 1996
Harper Trophy
A Division of HarperCollins Publishers

NOTE: A word of warning to newcomers to the Betsy-Tacy series. There is not really any feasible way for me to properly review Betsy's Wedding (the tenth and last book in the Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace) without giving away a key point to the end of the series, who Betsy marries. If you don't yet know and don't want to know who Betsy ends up with until you get to this book yourself, then STOP reading from the end of this paragraph and skip down to the "In Summary" section of this review. By doing so you will miss the spoiler. If you don't mind knowing ahead of time, then read on my friend!

The Plot:
When Betsy Ray arrives in New York after a tour of Europe, her old flame Joe Willard is waiting at the dock. Before he even says hello, he asks Betsy to marry him. They've been separated for a year, and they're determined never to be apart again. But as Betsy discovers, marriage isn't all candlelight, kisses, and roses. There's cooking, ironing, and budgeting as well--not to mention forging her career as a writer! For Betsy, the writing part comes naturally, but cooking is another matter. It's even harder than algebra--and much messier. Luckily Betsy Ray--make that Betsy Willard--has always thrived on challenge. Her name may have changed, but her life remains as full of love and laughter as it's been since she was a little girl living on Hill Street..." (Summary courtesy of the publisher.)

My Thoughts:
I love, love, love this book. Aside from Betsy and Joe, which is my favorite of Betsy's high school years, Betsy's Wedding is definitely my all-time favorite book in the BT series. When I picked it up to read last weekend I hadn't read the book in over ten years, I loved it then, but I think if it's possible, I enjoyed it even more this time around.

As most readers familiar with the BT series know, Maud Hart Lovelace patterned the characters and happenings in each story after people she knew and things she experienced, including herself and her husband, Delos. The only catch was that unlike Betsy, who meets Joe when they are entering their freshman year in high school, Maud didn't meet Delos until she was 25. So while she patterned the high school version of Joe after what she learned Delos was like at that age, it wasn't until Betsy's Wedding that Maud was able to really base the character of Joe after her own experience and relationship with Delos. And while I think Joe has always been one of my favorite characters in the series he is stellar in this book. As others have said of Betsy's Wedding, "Joe practically walks right off the page."

There are so many aspects of Betsy's Wedding that I love. I find the story both highly romantic and yet very realistic. I love watching Betsy's and Joe's relationship grow deeper and stronger. I love how Betsy, as is the case in all her stories, grows and blossoms. I love that I get a chance to see my favorite characters from the series find happiness and finally reach some of their long desired goals. And while I'm sad that Betsy's Wedding is the last book in the series, I am happy to find that Maud wrapped up her lose ends and I believe she ended the book (and the series) in the best way possible. It leaves the reader room to imagine the future for Betsy and Joe and avoids the heartache and grit that would be addressed had the series continued on into 1917 and the worst of World War I for Americans.

If asked what my favorite part of the book is I'd have a difficult time deciding. This book is a fresh, entertaining, and heart-tugging story of life, love, and the wonderful first few years of marriage. But that said, I think one of my favorite scenes is when Joe and Betsy are in New York City and Joe finally puts into words how he feels about Betsy:

"Betsy,' he said at last, 'I love you. I love you from that cloudy dark hair down to your slender feet. I love your eyes, and your soft hands, and your sweet voice, and the way your laugh chimes out. Everything about you is enchanting to me. But Betsy, it's lots more than that... I can always talk to you,' he said 'I can make plans, or puzzle out ideas, or build castles in the air. I don't need to think what I'm saying or guard my words. You understand my high moods and my low ones. You understand me, I guess. I want to be married to you and have you around all the time. I want to come home to you after work and tell you about my day. I want to hear you humming around doing housework. I want to support you. I want to do things for you. If we were married and I was coming home to you tonight, I wouldn't care if we had just bread and milk. You know, Betsy, we never quarrel when we're together. We never will, I really believe, when we are married. But if we aren't, something might come between us again. Betsy, you fit into my life as perfectly as a rose fits its stem. You and I match like the pieces of a broken coin.' After a long pause, he said, 'Love me always, Betsy! I have given my whole heart to you.' " (Chapt. 2, page 22-23)
In Summary:
I love Betsy's Wedding. There's no doubt that this book rates a 5 out of 5 (excellent) in my opinion. It is the creme to top off the series. Each book builds upon the story and I believe the reader is rewarded for their devotion. What might begin as a curious reader reading about two imaginative five year-olds Betsy Ray and Tacy Kelly, will eventually turn into a devoted fan of the series by the time the girls grow into beautiful and accomplished young women. Yes, the devoted fan is a life-long friend to Betsy, Tacy, Tib... and Maud Hart Lovelace.

I had bittersweet feelings about finishing the last book in this series. I was saddened because I felt like I was leaving behind very dear friends when I closed the last book, but at the same time I was happy because I had enjoyed revisiting them this year as I re-read through the series. The best part of all is the fact that they are never more than a hand's reach away on my bookshelf. Now that's a classic.

Want to read Betsy's Wedding? You can! If your library doesn't have a copy be sure to check out your local bookstore or shop online. HarperCollins Publishers has reprinted Betsy's Wedding along with Betsy And the Great World and they can be purchased in one paperback for $10-15.

Related Reads:
Betsy-Tacy (Betsy-Tacy series, 1897-1898)
Betsy, Tacy and Tib (BT, 1900-1901)
Winnona's Pony Cart (Deep Valley series, around 1900)
Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill (BT, 1902)
Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown (BT, 1904-1905)
Heavens to Betsy (BT, 1906-1907)
Betsy in Spite of Herself (BT, 1907-1908)
Betsy Was a Junior (BT, 1908-1909)
Betsy and Joe (BT, 1909-1910)
Carney's House Party (DV, 1911)
Emily of Deep Valley (DV, 1912-1913)
Betsy and the Great World (BT, 1914)
Betsy's Wedding (BT, 1914-1917)

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