• Getting It Into Print

    by Peter Mounteer

    Tom North (formerly Tom Beardsley) has a story to tell, and it is not the one you may think of when hearing his famous last name. Yes, Tom North was once a member of the 22 person Beardsley family who lived in Carmel. His sizable household was the real-life basis for the Beardsley family of the wildly successful 1968 film Yours, Mine and Ours starring Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda. Fans will recall amusing scenes between the characters Helen and Frank, the two single parent characters encountering each other on blind dates, Helen’s drink getting spiked by three of the Beardsley boys, and the birth of Joseph Beardsley uniting the family at the film’s conclusion.

    That version of family events, North contends, is pure fiction. In a tell-all book, True North: The Shocking Truth About “Yours, Mine and Ours”, released just a few weeks ago, he discloses a starkly different reality that was his childhood after Frank Beardsley entered the picture. It is nothing like the memorable romantic comedy of the late sixties. The book recounts North’s experiences from early childhood, starting with the shattering death of his father Dick North and continues in autobiographical fashion until the death of Frank Beardsley on December 11, 2012. North writes fondly of his biological father, Dick North, and the loving man’s relationship with wife Helen and the kids. “My parents were very much in love. They laughed a lot, kissed a lot, and generally displayed affection for each other and the children,” he writes. The North home was a warm and happy one during Tom’s first six years of life, and more similar to the one portrayed in Yours, Mine and Ours than the Beardsley clan that he describes in True North.

    For a first-timer, North writes with the ease and clarity of a seasoned writer and nothing seems particularly forced. He vividly recounts his childhood memories in detail using a relaxed and smooth literary style. Readers who generally avoid fare with heavier prose will be able to navigate North’s work without discomfort. North’s writing is exceptionally readable and makes ample use of exclamation marks that provides for refreshing and energetic prose.

    While the writing is light, the content is not. The book is not so disturbing that readers may find themselves unable to go on, but the experiences North recalls stand to move many. North spares the reader no detail of the darkness he personally witnessed and encountered while living as a Beardsley.

    However, North’s thoroughness, while appreciable in the context of his experience with abuse and recovery, contributes to the book’s one weakness in that it sometimes contains too much detail.

    About halfway through, the book slows a little bit as he recounts experiences that primed him to begin his recovery, but do not seem entirely essential to it. For example, the 10 page chapter nine describes working at Beardsley’s Ye Olde Donut Shop and North takes a full page and a half to describe how donuts were made using the shop’s equipment. North does this again when describing his outdoor adventures and will often take pages to describe exactly where he was and what things looked like. Such lengthy accounts serve to inform the reader at the expense of boring them with seemingly superfluous details. Thus, True North occasionally experiences well intentioned dry spells, but they are not discouraging enough to warrant putting the book down entirely.

    Although the connection to Yours, Mine and Ours is perhaps most relevant to contemporary members of the Baby Boom generation, should younger readers decide to pick up the book, they will not find themselves lost among incomprehensible references to mid-century family Americana.

    And pick it up they should. At the heart of North’s autobiography is a genuinely human story of one man’s journey to find himself again after becoming lost to the destructive power of drug addiction and the persistent self-loathing that invariably results from child abuse. Within North’s memoir we can find a little piece of ourselves that yearns for a return to simpler and happier times.

    Despite the dark subject matter, the 59 year old author makes room for humor wherever he can in describing the lighter days of his childhood. The result is a book that spends more time focussing on the author’s path to recovery and healing than on the actual abuse he claims took place. The cautious reader may be comforted to know that North’s story is not solely 300 pages of unflinching familial desecration, but also one of hope, love, compassion and forgiveness.

    True North does not simply seek to make headlines amongst boomers by unmasking the ugliness behind the charming reality established via Yours, Mine and Ours. It speaks to anyone who has felt the sting of parental betrayal and alienation. The book reaches much deeper than righting history’s wrongs. As a story of recovery, it reminds us that there are many ways out of seemingly unending suffering, and urges those currently enduring pain to allow themselves to get the help and love they need. This is why True North is important.

     

    GETTING IT IN PRINT

     

    North never intended to tell his story to a large audience. It was only after going through therapy and resolving to never again support the lie established by the hit movie, Yours, Mine and Ours, that North saw the chance for a different story to be told.

    “In subsequent social conversation, when people would ask me if the movie reflected real life, if it was appropriate I would share the real story. Invariably they would say ‘Oh that’s a book, you’ve got to write a book!’ and I dismissed it right away.” North said at a press conference for the book at Pilgrims Way Book Store in Carmel.  As the years went by North would re-encounter these people and they would relate to him how his story had inspired them to reexamine their own families and try therapy themselves. It was then North realized his story was making a difference. “So I thought, gosh, this story is helping people, so I’d better think again about writing a book.”

    North sat down in 2008 to write the first draft. He credits a ghostwriter for helping him get started with the first 100 pages of his story. The first time author maintains that writing the book was hugely cathartic and a “wonderful experience.” He took two years to write the first copy and another two years to edit and finalize the manuscript into a working book. The draft was completed in the Summer of 2012.

    In order to have as much control over the marketing and the rights to book, North and marketing consultant and publicist Barbara Howard made the decision to publish independently. “The world of publishing has changed,” said Howard. She went on to say that independent publishers have outsold traditional publishing houses in terms of sales figures for the first time in history this year. So North formed True North Productions, LLC, which will also be the publishing company under which he will publish upcoming works.

    Such projects include a book North is currently writing, called The Economics of Spiritual Transformation. The work is designed to inform readers of the seven chakras and how to manage them in a constructive way. The chakras are energy centers in the body important to Hindu philosophy. North has been practicing transcendental meditation as a stress management technique for over 38 years and describes his foray into meditation at the very beginning of his ongoing recovery.

    True North – The Shocking Truth about “Yours, Mine and Ours” is available online for $22.95 wherever books are sold. North is scheduled for upcoming  book signings in West Hollywood, San Jose and Corte Madera, with more locations being added every month. North is also the keynote speaker at the Annual Friends of CASA (Voices for Children) Luncheon this September. For more information about his calendar, and to read his blog, visit www.TrueNorthbyTomNorth.com

    posted to Cedar Street Times on July 18, 2013

    Topics: Peter Mounteer

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