For Americans who grew up in the 1930s, the phrase "before the war" calls up a distant time as remote from the way we live now as some foreign country. Those years of the Great Depression were lean ones for most Americans; jobs were scarce and nobody had any money. But all was not struggle and hardship; it was also a time of innocence, kindness, and generosity. It is this special time that Samuel Hynes, a distinguished scholar and wartime marine pilot, captures in this lyrical memoir of his midwestern boyhood. Born in 1924, Sam Hynes grew up in cities and towns and on farms around the country, following his father to wherever there was work, and eventually to Minneapolis. Though Hynes's family lived through hard times, he remembers his early years not as a time of pinched deprivation but as a golden stretch of opportunities and discoveries. Looking back with a clear-eyed, unsentimental gaze, Hynes describes the rough-and-tumble games in back alleys and a long hot summer on a farm, the temptations of sex, stealing, and drinking, and the wonder of falling in love for the first time. Here, too, are deeply etched portraits of Hynes's widowed father and of the feisty widow he brought home to be stepmother to his sons. Hynes's new memoir recaptures what came before the war he fought in: his dreams, his adventures, his sins and triumphs. Moving, written with great clarity and humor, The Growing Seasons is the story of a truly American boyhood.
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