Thursday, June 9, 2016

BEER MONEY by Frances Stroh

    A fascinating but sad American story Beer Money is inextricably linked with the deterioration of Detroit, a once great city, the Stroh Brewery Company, at one time the third largest beer maker in our country and holder of the largest private beer fortune, and the Strohs themselves,  a dysfunctional family.  Frances Stroh writes candidly and honestly in this moving memoir that readers will not soon forget.

    As a child Frances appeared to be her father’s darling, accompanying him to New York and London where she was treated to visits to her favorite toy store and to watching her father spend incredible amounts of money on his collection - guitars, guns, cameras.  While in truth her alcoholic father appeared to care more about his things than his four children - brothers Charlie, Bobby, Whitney and Frances.  The family lived in the upscale community of Grosse Pointe, Michigan in a home bulging with valuables that they were forbidden to touch.  Their world was one of wealth and power as the money kept rolling in although their mother, Gail, warned them it would not last and worried about their extravagant way of life.  Father Eric continued to drink and spend while Gail bought clothes for Frances at a thrift shop in order to save.  It was a losing battle.

    When Detroit and the automobile industry declined so did the Stroh family’s fortunes. While the children had been warned that the money would run out which imbued each of them with a fear of loss, they were ill prepared for the actuality and the personal tragedies that would follow.  Already torn apart by disagreements over the family business and the use of whatever money they had left the family was further fractured by the parents divorce, Charlie’s drug addiction, and father’s remarriage to one of Frances’s classmates.

    While writing Beer Money was surely arduous  for the author as she relived     painful memories it is often difficult to read as we are presented with a sorrowful sometimes shocking picture of familial dysfunction.  If only instead of great wealth there had been love.

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