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Anybody Can Do Anything (1950)

by Betty MacDonald

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Betty Bard MacDonald autobiographical series (book 3)

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2395113,011 (3.99)15
"The best thing about the Depression was the way it reunited our family and gave my sister Mary a real opportunity to prove that anybody can do anything, especially Betty." After surviving both the failed chicken farm - and marriage - immortalized in The Egg and I, Betty MacDonald returns to live with her mother and desperately searches to find a job to support her two young daughters. With the help of her older sister Mary, Anybody Can Do Anything recounts her failed, and often hilarious, attempts to find work during the Great Depression.… (more)
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Showing 4 of 4
Betty MacDonald returns us to her humorous world, this time during the Great Depression in Seattle. This book is set after her tales of the chicken farm (captured in The Egg and I) and covers her various job fiascoes before and after her stint in a tuberculosis sanatorium (as told in The Plague and I).

Betty is the second oldest child in a family of 4 daughters and 1 son. Her older sister Mary was always getting the younger kids to do what she wanted, either by trickery or by simply assuming they would do so and telling them all the reasons it’s in their best interest as well. This book starts off with Betty’s earliest years and all those school-year pranks and hi-jinks her sister Mary organized. For me, these were cute, quaint stories but didn’t interest me nearly as much as her other two books.

The book then skips ahead several years to directly after Betty’s failed marriage and her coming home from the chicken farm to live with her mom and siblings, bringing her two toddling daughters. I found these little stories more to my liking. Basically, it’s all about Betty and Mary, and occasionally one of the other siblings, finding and keeping work during the Depression int eh 1930s in Seattle. Mary was somewhat of a genius at getting her siblings jobs. Basically, she would claim that she or one of her siblings had the skills that whatever employer was looking for. She often stretched the truth and in those cases where she lied, she did make an effort to get either herself or her sibling acquainted with the skill before reporting to work.

Betty rarely had steady work; either the position was temporary from the beginning or the business closed. Her bosses could be a terror as well, acting like temperamental children with the power to fire people. Sometimes the men hiring secretaries were looking for ladies with special skills, skills that Mary and Betty weren’t willing to take on in a hired position. The there are her funny stories of going into debt and how she managed to get out of it. Yet through it all, Betty tells these tales with such humor. I’ve really enjoyed that about these books. She doesn’t paint a rosy picture, instead telling it how it is yet she maintains the ability to laugh at the situation (and sometimes herself).

My favorite story in this one is about a mysterious young lady that joined Betty in the task of folding flyers and sealing them in envelopes for mailing out later. This young lady seemed lonely but was almost assuredly disturbed. She stalked Betty and made both friendly little gestures and mean, even threatening, gestures and comments. It was a very strange encounter that went on for a few weeks. It became one of those unsolved mysteries turned family joke that her family like to pick over on boring evening.

This was a fun book but I prefer both The Egg and I and The Plague and I. With both of those books, there was a clear story arc. This book was a series of anecdotal tales tied together by Betty’s or Mary’s presence. While an enjoyable book, it didn’t carry the weight of the other two.

I received a free copy of this book via The Audiobookworm.

The Narration: Heather Henderson seemed to have some fun with this book. She’s still a great Betty MacDonald, but she’s also a great Mary Bard. I loved the play between these two sisters and Hendersen does a great job of bringing that to life in the narration. ( )
  DabOfDarkness | Feb 28, 2017 |
Recipe for surviving The Great Depression when you have no money, 2 children and have just left your husband:

1. Move in with your mother, brother & 3 sisters
2. Be willing to try pretty much anything
3. Get fired a lot
4. Keep trying

This is either the 2nd or 3rd of MacDonald's 4 autobiographical series and it deals with surviving the Depression and how MacDonald came to be a writer. MacDonald is sort of a cheerful curmudgeon with a tendency to mock everything. Not as good as The egg and I, but close. ( )
1 vote Bjace | Dec 20, 2014 |
Another memoir by Betty MacDonald, who having recently left the chicken farm she wrote about in The Egg and I, comes home to Seattle. It's the Depression Era, and jobs are very hard to come by. She feels herself woefully inadequate and lacking in office skills but her older sister Mary has connections everywhere and is indomitably optimistic; she pushes Betty into one job after another. Most of them don't last long. Everything from being a secretary (dictation, shorthand, mimeograph machines) to selling advertising, working the sales floor, tinting photographs by hand, and organizing Christmas parties for large corporations. Eventually she gets steady work in the offices of the National Recovery Administration, and from goes on to find her feet as a writer.

In the meantime, most of Anybody Can Do Anything is full of awkward interviews, scrambling to acquire or prove non-existent job skills, fending off jealous co-workers and sidestepping desperate people on the sidewalk where "every day found a better class of people selling apples on street corners." At home she and her sisters pinch pennies, make do and find various sources of free entertainment (like attending music students' recitals to laugh at the awkward performances!). While the gloom of the Depression is always present- desperation for jobs, hearing of people committing suicide, constantly dodging debt collectors- the ability of Betty and her family to keep their heads up and find amusement in everyday circumstances makes this little memoir glow.

from the Dogear Diary ( )
1 vote jeane | Jan 13, 2010 |
Showing 4 of 4
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» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Betty MacDonaldprimary authorall editionscalculated
Belmont, Georgessecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Henderson, HeatherNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marxová, EvaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"The best thing about the Depression was the way it reunited our family and gave my sister Mary a real opportunity to prove that anybody can do anything, especially Betty." After surviving both the failed chicken farm - and marriage - immortalized in The Egg and I, Betty MacDonald returns to live with her mother and desperately searches to find a job to support her two young daughters. With the help of her older sister Mary, Anybody Can Do Anything recounts her failed, and often hilarious, attempts to find work during the Great Depression.

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