This is such a wonderful book! Toby Neal shows her depth of compassion and total understanding of what it is to be “different”, as well as the hardships that go along with that. The best part though, is the way she tells this story. There is so much humor, a whole lot of normal childlike angst (that felt so familiar), as well as some sadness. I especially loved her flat out truth in some stories that had to be hard to share. Ms. Neal is such a fantastic story teller, is so descriptive that you feel as though you are there, and I have enjoyed every single book of hers. I highly recommend this as well as the rest of her books.
Just one beautiful line from FRECKLED, Toby Neal’s long-awaited memoir of growing up in the 1970s counterculture community of Kaua’i. This is the book that Toby Neal was born to write, and it’s the story that her friends and fans have been waiting to read for years. IT DOES NOT DISAPPOINT. It’s a story of idealistic, though self-absorbed young parents, trying to carve out a perfect life in paradise. It’s also the story of grinding poverty, failed dreams and heartbreaking love. All this from the perspective of a strong, intelligent child, whose personal resourcefulness saves her from simply falling, herself, into a life of substance abuse and desperation. Hearing bits and pieces of the story of her unusual childhood over the years, did not prepare me for the full picture of what Toby experienced and survived. When laid out chronologically, her story is nothing short of a page-turner. In her afterword, Toby describes the time and effort that were expended in order to bring this book to fruition. And yet, I read it in one day, because I had to know what god awful thing her family would chose to endure next. Good lord! Had this been a work of fiction, I’m pretty sure an editor would say, “Come on, give me a break. No one will believe the story of a family moving back and forth from Kaua’i to California, over and over and over, from one desperate situation to the next. Who does that to themselves? To their children?” And what an offbeat motif: the rebellious mouthy firstborn child, whose clear-eyed critique of her parents lifestyle means that her personal rebellion takes the form of seeking normalcy! The writing is beautiful, brutally honest and often soul-scorching. Toby acknowledges the influence of Don’t Let’s Go To The Dogs Tonight, and lovers of that memoir will, indeed, love this memoir. Thank you, Toby, for so generously sharing your life with us.
Toby Neal has grown so much as a writer since her first Lei Crime novel and her prose is magnificent in this book. She describes small moments with such clarity and rare beauty, it's hard to walk away from her descriptions of the darkest side of paradise. That said, this was a difficult, often painful read for me. Toby's memoir of the first 18 years of her life is evocative yet grim. She has a way of describing things that put you right in the scene...but not scenes where the reader necessarily wants to be. Growing up in primitive, sometimes horrifying circumstances in verdant, seemingly magical Kauai, which in the 70s was pretty much untouched paradise. proved it was often anything but. Her parents are abusive in so many ways and there were times I wanted to punch them both in their reefer-smoking mouths. Reading Toby's remarkably detailed memories from the time she was about three, I am reminded of two other searing memoirs - Thor Heyerdahl's provocative Fatu-Hiva - Back to Nature and also Mandy Sayer's Velocity. As I read the book I was also reminded of the documentary Surfwise, one of the most searing I've ever seen. The father in that movie is a complete crackpot, too. He selfishly denied his many children so many things...reading this book brought it all back to me. Who doesn't fantasize about living off the grid? The reality is harsh and punishing and I cried more than a few times. Toby is an observer here but the pace and the shocking incidents are relentless. There isn't much lightness in this story but it it is inspiring. There are small moments of charm that make up for the awfulness of some her life experiences. You root for her from page one. It's not only her words and delightful use of language but descriptions that brought a smile to my lips as I read - some of the time. That her parents did nothing about her sexual molestation when she was a child is something I cannot get over. And yet, resilient Toby describes small moments with charm and grace. She forgives her parents. And as a reader I see where she got the inspiration for her character Lei Texeira. She describes a visit to Haleiwa as a dirt road with a bridge going over it. That she was there before we spoiled it all is both a gift and probably a great hurt to her. Haleiwa is so commercialized now it's tragic. She lived in the beautiful islands with its magic, rainbows and the underside of its belly is something I don't wish on anybody. Interestingly, she survives and thrives, and has a solid marriage and an astonishingly successful, varied career. I noted with interest that the female survivors from Surfwise also turned out to form strong marital bonds and to make amazing lives for themselves. I wish Toby nothing but the best. I will not forget her story for a long, long time.
Toby Neal does a terrific job telling her childhood story, as well as the story of Kauai, Hawaii back in the 1960s and 1970s. Even more importantly, she shows how “bad” parents can be as educational to a child as “good” parents, and how “growing up wild” can make a child highly resourceful and resilient. Subpar parents and a childhood where bad things happened, such as bullying, does not doom a child. Apples can fall far, far away from the tree. From a very young age, everyone starts making decisions about their lives and how to respond to what happens to them. You can blame your parents and others and society until you’re 90 years old, but it’s a silly, stupid thing to be doing. Read this book if you want to read about someone taking full responsibility for her life. Read this book if you want to experience and understand life back in Hawaii 50 years ago, as lived by one freckled, red-headed girl.
What a beautiful and wonderful book this is!!! It is so well written and shares the intimate thoughts of a young girl growing up on a tropical island. Thank you for sharing this part of your life and thank you to your family for allowing you to do that as well. It’s real, it’s humble and it’s loving!!!
It is said that behind every good writer is a sad little childhood. Toby Neal’s memoir proves the point. She had the kind of childhood that either makes you strong her kills you. Her hippie parents chose to live in substandard conditions in the backwaters of the gorgeous Island of Kauai so they could surf, smoke dope and drink with abandon. That is fine, but to bring children into this quagmire is unconscionable in my opinion. Clearly Toby needs to try to understand and forgive them to be whole, but I don’t. To bring a third and fourth child into the world when you are essentially homeless is irresponsible and negligent. Still, I enjoyed this journey back in time because I was living on the North Shore when she was twelve and the notorious Taylor camp was alive and well. I too was seduced by the beauty of what was a paradise mostly hidden from the tourist traffic. I really enjoyed being there again and being in places that assuaged my tropical fantasies. I saw the troubles brewing between the locals and haole invaders and the limited opportunities on Kauai and returned to the mainland. Toby is one in a million, bright and strong enough to overcome her circumstances, but most children would have been crushed and severely psychologically damaged by the conditions she describes. Books and authors became her escape route from the abuses she suffered and she has become one of the most prolific writers I know. I have read many of her 30 fiction mystery stories set in the Islands and enjoyed them, but this is by far her best effort. I will give the writing 5-stars, but I felt much like I did after reading Jennette Walls best-selling memoir Glass Castle-disgusted with parents who have no business bringing children into the world.
I have read all of Toby Neal's fiction and found the background she created in her stories so realistic. After reading "Freckled," the story of her young years I can understand why. The book was mesmerizing and I could not put it down. Interwoven among the threads of Toby's life is the background of the scene and times. When I fact checked what I could it was all spot on, takiing me to another time and place. Reading "Freckled" explained many of the characterizations and scenes in her fictional works. For anyone who has read this withput reading her other books you have an entire library ahead of you. Although technically each book can stand alone, the flow is easier if you read them in order. Truth is stranger than fiction and how MS. Neal became the person she is in spite of her upbringiing is amazing, but perhaps it is because of it. This book will pull you in and keep you spellbound from the begining through the last paragraph.
I loved this book and it was so interesting reading about the life of one of my favorite authors. I knew Toby grew up on Kauai but had no idea her life there was so “interesting” and challenging. At times harrowing and scary, Toby handled adult-sized situations with great courage and tenacity. At times living in a tent or van, all she ever wanted was normalcies and saw education as a way of achieving that goal. The other backdrop was Kauai itself with surfing, fishing, and racial tensions of Haole Hippies invading a tropical paradise. Being bullied because of her red hair and freckles and home life, yet woven into this tapestry of parents who were Alcoholics and drug users and constantly moving from Hawaii to the Mainland, were funny stories of Toby’s stubbornness to conquer any obstacles coming her way. Loved the story of Keiki the ornery Shetland pony!