From the Times Leader of Wilkes-Barre, PA:
The first-person narrative follows Jakes as she sets out on a quest of personal identity and the interesting way she chooses to live her life. According to H.R. Jakes, the “zany” way his mother chose to live is how she found love, happiness, and her meaning of life.
“The first draft of the book was completed the day before she died,” Jakes said. “I had talked to her about the book before she passed. Every story in the book is one that she told or I witnessed.”
Jakes said his mother “had a hand in writing the book,” for he consulted her notebooks for ideas or stories he had forgotten. Elaine Jakes kept journals most of her life and shortly after she passed, her son found manuscripts in a metal box under her bed.
Elaine Jakes wrote, “It is time for me to fly with the Word. Explain me to my reader.” Her son did his best to follow his mother’s manuscript.
Jakes said that Homer’s Odyssey was an inspiration as it is a homecoming poem and his mother was continually trying to find her home and connect with her Welsh roots.
“The book captures her,” said Blythe Evans of Kingston, Elaine Jakes’s nephew. “It shows just how headstrong she was. Once she put her mind to something there was very little you could do to persuade her from doing what she wanted to do.” Evans said the novel displayed how his aunt stressed her Welsh traditions and how they were important to her family.
“It shows how life was for a woman who lives with those traditions,” Evans said. “It is not common for someone to uphold four o’clock tea, but Elaine did.” He said the book gives a different perspective of northeastern Pennsylvania.
“A lot of books are about coal mining, which was very important to the area,” Evans said. “But you aren’t going to find stories like this anywhere else. My favorite is about the cross-dressing monkey. I never met the monkey, but I did hear about it.”
Elaine Jakes bought a monkey named Betsy so that her son would have a sister,” H.R. Jakes recalled. The monkey lived with the Jakes for about a year but eventually the family donated Betsy to the Philadelphia Zoo. H.R. Jakes said he’ll never forgot his monkey sister.
Jakes is proud to see his mother’s personality on every page and hopes the people of NEPA can relate to her life and find their way in the world. “I hope people see that they can find joy in everyday stuff and the people of the valley see something of themselves in the book,” he said. “To derive joy from life. Life is not meant to be just about seriousness. Life is funny.”