HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Where Have All the Flowers Gone? The Diary of Molly MacKenzie Flaherty, Boston, Massachusetts, 1968
Author: Ellen Emerson White
Publisher: Scholastic Inc., 2002
Language level: 3 (some profanity and cursing
Reading level: intended for ages12 and up, but I would not recommend it for anyone under age 16
Rating: 2 stars (POOR)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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White, Ellen Emerson. Where Have All the Flowers Gone? The Diary of Molly MacKenzie Flaherty, Boston, Massachusetts, 1968 (published in 2002 by Scholastic Inc., 557 Broadway, New York City, NY 10012). This is one of the “Dear America” books. With some events and characters based on actual history, this book describes about six months in the life of fictional fifteen-year-old Molly Flaherty, whose brother Patrick is fighting in Vietnam. She volunteers at a Veterans’ Administration Hospital and tries to make sense of the Vietnam War. While I read this book, I kept having an uneasy feeling, and I finally decided why. I was fourteen in 1968, just a year or so younger than Molly, and my experience was completely different from hers. It was as if we lived in two different worlds–or maybe even universes.
Yes, I remember the same events that she describes, but my reaction to them was entirely opposite. And then I realized what the difference is. While Molly’s family is Catholic, their religion really does not make a major difference in their lives. Molly and her brother Patrick are not quite sure what they believe about God. The father, who is a fire fighter, is a heavy beer drinker. Her mother gives her a copy of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. Many of her slightly older friends have become hippies, drug users, and anti-war activists. This is a thoroughly worldly family and its milieu. So Molly is trying to make sense of it all without a well-grounded Biblical worldview. Perhaps a book like this might be justified by some on the basis that it presents realistic situations, but I am not sure that young people whose parents are trying to raise them to be godly really need to spend a lot of time reading about such things.
In addition, the language is not good, with “God” being used as an interjection frequently, and Molly herself using the “d” word a couple of times. She also writes about her periods, so this is not a book that would be good for boys! The author attempted to give some balance to the anti-war vs. support for soldiers in Vietnam issues prevalent at the time, but I came away from the book with a decidedly anti-war feeling about it. These “Dear America” books are quite popular and even several homeschooling stores carry them, but of the three that I have read, I have given two only a “fair” rating and this one is even worse. There is a companion volume, The Journal of Patrick Seamus Flaherty, United States Marine Corps, Khe Sanh, Vietnam, 1968, in the “My Name Is America” series of “Dear America” books.