the Twig: A Memoir
By Kenneth Goetz
Published by 1stBooks Library, Bloomington, Indiana, 2002, 191
Central North Dakota Library Network
Described as a "Memoir," the book is autobiographical
and a description of growing up in South Dakota, living in very
modest circumstances through the thirties and forties when most
of our families were experiencing hope and an improvement in their
material condition, post depression and post war.
The book may be summarized as follows: These haunting and glowing
memories of growing up hard on the Dakota prairie during the great
depression tell the story of a boy whose early life was clouded,
along with those of his siblings, by an alcoholic father, a dying
mother, and hunger-steeped poverty. Though his future appeared dim,
Kenneth Goetz was lucky, he tells us, and emerged from his stressful
boyhood to become a physician and prize-winning medical researcher.
This memoir bristles with authenticity as it lays out the harsh
and redeeming truths of the people and the prairie that shaped the
author's formative years -- an unforgettable story of family love,
treachery, small joys, and loss.
There are hilarious incidents (admittedly not hilarious at the time)
such as an encounter with a skunk which brought a hasty close to
earning spending money with trapping, and sad episodes with a mother's
declining health, a poignant and companionable episode of grandfather's
telling a young man how lucky he was when he felt anything but lucky
and his circumstances would seem to indicate no luck in his life.
Professor Emeritus Albert Stone, Editor of Singular Lives: The
Iowa Series in North American Autobiography, wrote of Bending
the Twig: "I enjoyed and learned and felt a good deal
from reading this often stressful emotional experience. ...it is
never without hope and humor. As with "Angela's Ashes,"
it is a bitter story told with style, honesty, sympathy, and irony.
Indeed, sympathy for both mother and father makes a striking parallel
between this story and Frank McCourt's."
About the Author
Kenneth Goetz's hometown is Java, South Dakota. His Goetz ancestors
lived in the village of Glueckstal, South Russia, (today Glinnoje,
Moldova) from 1816 to 1905. His grandfather, Johann Jakob Goetz
came to the United States settled in Java. The Schafers, his mother's
people, came from Borodino, Bessarabia, and his mother's maternal
side, the Zweigardts, came to America from Hoffnungstal.
Kenneth Goetz served in the U.S. Air Force in Germany and graduated
with high honors from the University of Wisconsin. After earning
his Ph.D. and M.D. degrees, he joined the University of Kansas Medical
Center faculty, and later St. Luke's Hospital of Kansas City, to
pursue extensive investigation of the cardiovascular system. His
research earned him the prestigious German Humboldt Award. After
serving as a visiting professor in Finnish and German universities,
and at the German Institute of Aerospace Medicine, he gave up his
scientific life to devote himself to writing. He and his wife live
in the Kansas City area. They have a son and a daughter. Their son
and his wife recently presented them with their first granddaughter.
by Edna Boardma
Bending the Twig: A Memoir
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