Helen Hooven Santmyer

Helen Hooven Santmyer gave hope to late bloomers when she became a best-selling author at the age of 88. The nursing home resident of Xenia, Ohio was nearly blind and confined to a wheelchair when she wrote the final pages of “…And Ladies of the Club.” Her 1,344-page novel spans four generations in a fictional Ohio town modeled after Santmyer’s native Xenia. It relates in detail what happens to the families of the town’s literary ladies club, from post-Civil War to the Great Depression.

At first, only a few hundred copies of …And Ladies of the Club were printed when the Ohio State University Press released the book in 1982; most went to Ohio public libraries. While in circulation at the Shaker Heights Public Library, one of these fell into the hands of an enthusiastic and well-connected patron, whose influence boosted Santmyer’s novel to a main selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club.

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