indigozeal (indigozeal) wrote in 50bookchallenge,


I read G. W. Hinckley's Some Good Will Boys as a matter of local interest - Hinckley at the turn of the (20th) century ran the Good Will-Hinckley charity boarding school in central Maine for underprivileged & delinquent boys, which taught them natural-living trade skills in a farm-like setting. The campus was huge - Hinckley felt that access to an outdoor life and a home-like campus were salutary for a boy's development - and in later years, the campus mission was expanded to orphans of both genders. Financial mismanagement led to the campus closing, though; it's recently been relaunched as part of a nearby community college.

But anyhow: Some Good Will Boys is a collection of short and allegedly true stories about Good Will-Hinckley's young charges that G. W. Hinckley assembled in 1910. Trouble is...well, there's not much point to these stories. I realize that popular writing standards must've been different 100 years ago, but Hinckley doesn't know how to shape a real-life narrative to create tension or interest or to illustrate a point. Most of the stories follow a predictable arc of "orphan commits & denies misdeed; is eventually found out," but the stories are real shaggy-dog tales that're too flat or unstructured to be humorous and have no real moral except "don't steal paint/watches/money/etc." The only two unique morals we get besides that are 1) though it should be used sparingly, some boys need corporal punishment in order to get on the straight and narrow, dammit, and 2) alcoholism is responsible for the ruin of many families (as noted in a kind of stilted "hey, we're all just coincidentally talking about how alcohol has robbed us of our parents; MY, I WONDER WHAT LESSONS A BYSTANDER READING COULD DRAW FROM THIS" conversation betwen Hinckley and some of his boys). Hinckley doesn't seem like an overly honest narrator, as too many of his conversations sound scripted, and...well, though I was hoping to glean some new insight into a local landmark through this book, all I ended up concluding was that perhaps the dishonesty at the Good Will campus goes back a little further than I thought.

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