The Harding Sisters of Sterling City Road and Me
by Carol E. Plimpton
Westwood Books Publishing LLC

"Winter was a wonderful time of year. As kids we were constantly outside sliding at the fairgrounds or skating on Hamburg Cove or Mill Pond."

With her colorful family history more than a century old and threatening to fade away like much of small-town history, the author of this book offers a brief biography for each of her aunts, her mother, her grandparents, and extended family in the form of vignettes and snapshots. Each of these stories details a moment in life either important or emblematic of a big family living in a rural part of Connecticut that remains sparsely populated to this day. Each of the Harding sisters has significant details of her life recorded here: marriages, children, dominant character traits, and a funny anecdote or two to complete the picture. All of this is told through the family’s primary hobby of gossip, personal recollection, or occasionally the inclusion of newspaper quotes both from the author’s childhood pen or from the official press.

In each chapter, memories are shared and captured on the page, whether about specific members of the Harding family or just about life in the Lyme area—from festivals and snowy winters to church events and local family traditions. The author blends her personal perspective with the story she inherited from the conversations of her relatives. Being a family story, the details often get personal, and nothing less should be expected from a document that seeks to capture the dynamic of familial relations either by blood or by adoption. Complete with many family photos, this book serves to capture the Harding legacy for any interested reader as well as providing a glimpse of how much life has changed in just over a century.

This book resides in an interesting middle ground. It is most certainly a biography, but because of the author’s role in the family and her firsthand accounts, it can, at times, be told from a first-person perspective. Often the author’s nostalgia for simpler times shines on the page, drawing readers in with fascination as tales of telephone party lines and trips to the city fair come to life in vivid detail and description. As outlined in her introduction, Plimpton’s mother was perfectly suited for the task of writing this book as an author, historian, and genealogist, but left this story in her daughter’s hands to tell, and that urgency and necessity is apparent by the meticulous nature of the text.

In addition to a semi-chronological storytelling format, certain chapters are dedicated to genealogical tasks: compiling marriage announcements and obituaries, outlining generations, and preserving official records. Even though there are generations of family members and marriages recorded, the book chooses the single generation full of Harding women as its primary topic of focus and sticks to it, profiling and chronicling each of the women in a thorough but not long-winded manner. Genealogy buffs will find a lot of inspiration in this style: compiling all of the data but joining it to personal stories and emotional details that give each chapter a sense of life and vibrancy. Although at its heart this is one family’s story, the author’s book holds historical and cultural significance for all readers and provides a shining example of how family history can be more than just charts, scrapbooks, and newspaper articles.

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