Poetic Monthly Magazine Book Review
By Sheila Deeth
The farmhouse… the prairie… how easily we romanticize a simpler time, but Marion Witte’s childhood was far from romantic, and the earlier chapters of Little Madhouse on the Prairie describe it in painful detail. The chapters read sometimes like essays, one describing vividly the layout and lifestyle of a North Dakota farmhouse in the 1950s, another sitting Marion on the grate over the furnace with her father in a rare moment of peace, and a particularly well-structured essay comparing Marion’s isolation within her family to the separation, by 100 feet and a line that must never be crossed, between her home and that of her uncle. In the second half of the book, after an interesting insert of photographs, the author begins to analyze how her childhood has affected her adult self. Earlier chapters of family history have already laid the groundwork. Now psychiatrists and hypnotists are called in, though the author learns her best lessons from herself and her daughter. After creating what seems like a normal adult life, the author moves out to explore her past and takes the reader on an interesting journey through all its ramifications. Some of the text seems overly personal, slowed down by detailed examples, but the conclusions in part three are well drawn and powerfully told. “The major steps of the healing process are awareness, acceptance and forgiveness,” the author says, then calls for awareness in her readers too, demanding that we shouldn’t simply accept that some children are abused, but must take a stand and “keep them safe from harm.” Wise advice to everyone. The author’s purpose in this book is to tell the wounded there is hope of healing, whatever personal circumstances may have prevailed. Through this detailed retelling of her own healing, I would say she achieves her aim.