Mrs Olga Stych, daughter of an immigrant Ukrainian pig farmer, has finally made it to the top of the social pyramid of Tollemarche, a small town in Canada’s Bible Belt. But to get there, she has not only had to see off her most determined rival, she has also had to neglect her son Hank. With enemies outside her home, and a latchkey kid inside, Hank was left to fend for himself. Olga little realises that the moment of her demise is to arrive just when she appears to be at her most triumphant.
As a member of the Committee for the Preservation of Morals, Olga has mounted a passionate campaign against the latest ‘immoral’ bestseller. But the author of the book turns out to be her own son, Hank.
Olga’s fall is greeted with joy by her rivals. And throughout the whole affair, Hank continues to draw strength and support from the one woman who has believed in his work and inspired his love.
This was Helen’s most controversial book as it is a pointed satire of an element of Canadian society in the 1960’s. Helen viewed it as a gentle poke at some of the more extreme social rivalry she observed. Here is how Helen described the book to a prospective publisher in 1969.
“In this novel, the writer takes a good-humoured look at a section of Prairie Society about which little has been written, namely, the lives and motives of those women who devote themselves to voluntarily work or to women’s clubs, and the pitiful position of their neglected, and sometimes delinquent, children.
“The scene is urban Alberta, and the story concerns the struggle for social prominence, through membership of appropriate institutions, of a Ukrainian, Mrs Olga Stych, the wife of a well to do German-Canadian geologist. Their son, Hank, embittered by his parents neglect of him and desperate because of his inability, at the age of 19, to matriculate, seeks revenge upon his mother by writing a vulgar, but very successful, book. The book shocks the strictly conformist society in which the family lives, to such an extent that Mrs Stych’s carefully planned social climbing is ruined, since it is generally believed that the parents must have condoned the publication of Hank’s book.
“Her lifelong ambitions crushed and her normal way of life destroyed, Mrs Stych is drawn involuntarily into a new circle of acquaintances and finds herself helping [developmentally disabled] children. This new occupation brings out all that is good and genuine in her and, finally brings her happiness.
“I hope that you may find this comment on one source of juvenile delinquency amusing to read, and that you will give your kind consideration to its publication.”