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Yoga Korunta

Life & Politics

Location: United States

One learns, as nothing endures but change.

23 June 2006

Book: One Night in a Bad Inn

ONE NIGHT IN A BAD INN by Christy Leskovar, reviewed by Laurel Piippo, 1334 Sacramento Street, Richland, WA 99354. Submitted May 16, 2006

"It all started when I heard that my great-grandmother was accused of murder."

Now there's an opening sentence to stop readers in their tracks and lure them to read Christy Leskovar's eye-popping family history, ONE NIGHT IN A BAD INN.

Actually, it all started in 1976 when Leskovar was a junior in my American Lit class during the US Bicentennial celebrations. While the nation focused on our national heritage, the class assignment was to celebrate personal histories by interviewing relatives and writing a family history. Leskovar laughed, "Four A ++++s weren't enough. I had to keep going."

Leskovar's G-rated school essay came full circle 30 years later with the X-rated tale of her villainous great-grandmother Sarah Hughes, who couldn't destroy the dignity and beauty of her daughter Aila, Leskovar's grandmother. Sarah, sent to finishing school to be a perfect lady, and a strange great-grandfather who abandoned his family, created a family of skeletons yanked out of the closet by the persistent Leskovar.

The poised, impeccable Sarah "practiced the social graces with the confidence of a well-bred lady." Her elegant facade masked "an alcoholic nymphomaniac," flatly stated one of her granddaughters when Leskovar started investigating the curious life of her great-grandmother.

The contrast between Leskovar's beloved Grandma Aila and the outrageous Sarah piqued Leskovar's curiosity. Aila stars in this non-fiction narrative, a beautiful rose who rejected her mother's illegal and immoral behavior, determined to be a REAL lady. She survived the cesspool of her environment in a triumph of character and strength that inspires Leskovar to this day.

Sarah and her husband, Arthur Hughes, moved westward to Montana, homesteaded near Forsyth, and had five children. Their childhood was interrupted when Sarah and the hired man were charged with murdering Arthur in the early 1900s.

Leskovar called the court house in Forsyth and asked, "Do you have a record of Sarah Hughes being jailed for murder?"


Leskovar pondered that and called back, "Do you have Sarah Hughes jailed for anything?"

"Yes." (I'm not telling another thing! Read the book.)

While her mother spent 14 months in jail, Aila lived in an orphanage with two younger siblings. Her teen-age brothers had to fend for themselves. Later, one brother died of peritonitis because Sarah was too cheap to call a doctor in time, and two ended up in jail after Sarah ordered them, "Get money. I need money."

Sound like something out of Charles Dickens! The characters are just as memorable.

Aila, an excellent student with ambitions to become a teacher, received a scholarship and prepared to leave home to attend Radcliffe. The humiliation of scandals, the physical beatings . . . the debauchery she witnessed would not damage her soul. She determined, "'I was not going to live like that. . . I decided I was going to be a lady."

Sarah destroyed her educational plans. Enraged, she pulled Aila's clothes out of the closet and ripped them to shreds. No college for Aila.

At age 19 Aila eloped with Peter Thompson and bore five children, one of them Pat Leskovar, whose son Jeff runs the Leskovar car dealership in Kennewick.

Christy Leskovar's search for truth took nine years. She visited Butte, Montana, where she was born, as well as Forsyth. She searched out her ancestral history in Wales and Ireland. She pored through records at World War I sites in France and Belgium where her great-grandfather Peter Thompson risked his life to save a buddy. The French awarded him the Croix de Guerre.

Being a war hero didn't make Peter a good husband and father. Leskovar describes his charisma and Irish charm, but his reluctance to support his five children speaks louder than words. Even so, Aila never criticized him or tried to manage him. Always a lady, she created a home environment of dignity and love, regardless of poverty and overwork.

Although Aila's granddaughter's research is meticulous, her style is easy and conversational as she tells the reader what is documented fact, what probably happened, and what she doesn't know happened. The book is a historical treasure, enriched with dozens of photographs, plus being a darned good yarn.

ONE NIGHT IN A BAD INN by Christy Leskovar, Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, Inc. 713 South Third Street West, Missoula, Montana 59801Phone (406) 549-8488, FAX (406) 728-9280

Laurel Piippo, dear readers, is my cousin.


Blogger barbie2be said...

Good review... it made me want to read the book.

Blogger Yoga Korunta said...

Thank you, Barbie! Now what happened to the body of text?

Blogger barbie2be said...

probably too many******** try taking some of them out.

Blogger DivaJood said...

Now you see it, now you don't. That was super weird. But really good review.

Blogger Yoga Korunta said...

Thanks! Too bad Laurel doesn't blog.

Blogger barbie2be said...

you should seriously get her started. she is a terrific writer.

Blogger Yoga Korunta said...

Laurel is one of the most fascinating people one could meet. She is a retired English teacher/travel agent but has no desire to blog.

Blogger barbie2be said...

well then... don't let her read my blog. my use of the english language and my lack of punctuation and grammar would probably give her a stroke.

Blogger Yoga Korunta said...

Not to worry, Barbie, she won't even read my blog!

Blogger barbie2be said...

well, thank goodness for small miracles... :)

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