True North Productions LLC, 7/15/2013
Trade Paperback, 356 pages
Tom North is one of the eight North children, who together with the ten Beardsley children, became the family that was featured in the 1968 film, Yours, Mine and Ours, starring Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda, and again in the 2005 version starring Rene Russo and Dennis Quaid. The book begins in the 1950s on Whidbey Island, Washington, where Tom’s mother, Helen North, became a widow when she was just thirty years old and pregnant with her eighth child. Not long after, Helen North met and married Frank Beardsley, a man with ten children and the North children were adopted and their names changed to Beardsley. But it wasn’t one big happy family, as the movie depicted. When Tom finally left home, he traveled on a journey of survival, self-discovery, and healing. Years later, miraculously led his family in counseling sessions where shocking truths were revealed, he came full circle as he reclaimed his father’s name and was finally, True North.
True North: The Shocking Truth about Yours, Mine & Ours is a memoir by Tom North, one of the children in the Beardsley/North marriage that the 1968 movie, Yours, Mine and Ours was based on. The problem is that the movie version was fiction. The real life blended family that the Beardsley/North union created was fraught with abuse, mostly at the hands of Frank Beardsley, but Helen was a distant mother and did little to stop it.
Tom's father, Richard, tragically died when he was six, leaving Helen widowed with seven children and pregnant with her eighth child. You should all know the story - not long after, she met and married Frank Beardsley, a widower with 10 children. Right from the start Frank was verbally and physically abusive to the children. Tom divulges several incidents that happened to him and other members of the family, but he doesn't give a laundry list of details or necessarily dwell on the abusive past. Instead he just talks about his life growing up and what he did. There were things that saved him from what could have turned into a self-destructive path.
Living in Carmel helped Tom escape from his home. He spent a lot of time fishing at the beach. He became a certified scuba diver. He tried drugs, but once he learned about Transcendental Meditation, he stopped the drug usage and turned to TM instead. He left home right after high school at 17, and although he was still forced (or felt obligated) to work in the family's businesses (for which none of the children were paid), he also got another job. The hours he was working were so long and hard that his health was jeopardized. Tom found a way to pursue his dream of going to the college he wanted to attend. It was a relief to go work for his uncle in Alaska on a boat fishing for salmon in order to earn money to go to college.
The inspirational message is that although Tom was emotionally traumatized by events from his childhood, he found a way to make his life worthwhile, content, and peaceful.
There are a couple places where Tom went on a bit too long for me (salmon fishing, TM, college experiences) and lost my complete interest, but the main point of his book is that he survived and this should give hope to others that may be in similar circumstances. The last couple of chapters definitely provide closure.
The memoir helpfully includes a list of resources and an index. Recommended
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Tom North via Netgalley for review purposes.