Oh, Beautiful: An American Family in the 20th Century is an epic portrayal of 100 years of family history mixed with 100 years of American history. There are so many wonderful things I can say about this memoir written by John Paul Godges. I related to the author's family narrative on many levels.
As a family historian, I enjoyed the larger story of five generations spanning 100 years and the struggle of a new immigrant finding a life in America.
As a descendant of a Polish immigrant (my great-grandfather) and having married into an Italian family, I related to the many eccentricities of these two cultures displayed so fully by the author.
As a child growing up in a very Catholic family, I could have easily changed places with the Godge’s children.
As a member of a large family (six children as well) growing up through the 60 and 70’s, I related yet again, to day to day events of the time but also to the struggle of finding your place within a family and within the larger community and as an individual.
What makes Oh, Beautiful so stunning, besides the seamless writing, is that it will speak to every reader. You do not have to be a Catholic, or be of Polish or Italian heritage, you don’t even have to be an American (I’m Canadian) to fully appreciate this book. You only have to be a member of a family to have this story speak to you.
I read this book from my Kindle but if you love a beautiful book for not just it words, Oh Beautiful meets all the criteria. I understand that the print book with its striking front cover and family photographs printed on high quality paper is a book lover’s dream.
Talking again from my family history cheerleader pose, I can easily shine a light on this family narrative as a wonderful example for other family historians considering penning a memoir/family history. Mr. Godges has shaped his family story through a blend of oral histories along with genealogical and historical research. Without hesitation, I can hold up Oh Beautiful as a wonderful example of family history storytelling and it will sit alongside Glass Castle and Angela’s Ashes on my list of great reads for family historians.
(Oh, Beautiful An American Family in the 20th Century is the Recipient of the Kirkus Star and is an Indie Book Awards Finalist in two memoir categories.)