Morsels of Memory Add Up to a Full Meal

“Morsels of Mischief” by father-daughter team Tom and Chris McClarren offers a full meal of detailed and evocative memories of an unusual childhood in a Catholic orphan home. Filled with tensions as well as sweet and bitter-sweet memories, these Orphan Tales escape nostalgia and sentimentality by their honesty and the directness of Tom McClarren’s voice.

Not only do these tales evoke one childhood, they evoke a time in our nation’s history, an artifact of our social justice family system to study and consider, and the tensions inherent in all childhoods—especially all childhoods ruled by what is perhaps excessive structure and rules.

Strangely, though I myself am clearly not an orphan, I often related to the situations Tom and Chris McClarren recount here. One tale I particularly enjoyed was the remembrance of Tom’s “bomber jacket.” It sharply brought back memories of my own beloved bomber jacket passed down from my brother, no doubt.

One of the things I love and admire is the easy voice of the storyteller which Chris McClarren is able to preserve. This is not an easy thing to do, especially in a collaboration in which “voice” is hitting “paper.” This voice on paper provides an essential pleasure in reading these collected tales…in which one tale folds inside another, as is the way with true storytellers.

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