The Skipworth Summer
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Can a 75 year-old barber save troubled teenager Ross Benedict from destroying his life? This novel, inspired by real characters, explores the delicate balance between excruciating loss and a deep bond – however briefly shared.

Ross Benedict is a 9th grade teacher who breaks his vow never to return to a small Arkansas town and the memories that live there. He wants no reminders of the hurt and loss he experienced when he was a troubled, scared teenager. But the inescapable pull of that long-ago time draws him back to the home of his unlikely mentor, 75 year-old Luther Skipworth, and Ross recalls a tumultuous, ultimately heartbreaking summer.

Skipworth takes responsibility for Ross, a ward of the county, when the teen commits an act of vandalism. He forges a bond with his young charge, perhaps because he recognizes something of himself in Ross’s defiant anger. By working with Mr. Skipworth at his barber shop and on his farm, Ross builds a grudging respect for the old man, himself a renegade of sorts.

Reconciling their differences is not the biggest challenge facing the pair, however. When he wants to gain legal guardianship of Ross, Skipworth must counter opposition from his only daughter and from an inflexible social worker. Ross believes himself victimized by rigid bureaucracy; even worse, he feels betrayed by a family he so fervently wants to claim as his own.


 What they are saying about The Skipworth Summer

The Skipworth Summer is possible only because of the real Luther Skipworth, my grandfather. Events in his life inspired this novel, but it is a work of fiction. So, what is real? The information about Skip’s early years is completely factual. His mother did die when he was 10 years old in an accident as the family returned from the grist mill in Many Springs, Missouri. In fact, the obituary in the novel is quoted exactly from the death notice as it appeared in 1910. A young, motherless boy, Skip was shuttled to multiple families. Denied the opportunity to attend school beyond the third grade, Skip valued education above all else. As such, he was tireless in his pursuit of knowledge. He prized his extensive collection of books, proudly embossing each title page with a seal noting his ownership. He and his bride, Faye Lewis Skipworth, worked as barber and beautician in the building on the corner of Church Street in Berryville, Arkansas. Artifacts from his many years as a barber are still on display at the Pioneer Heritage Museum, and the curators there were most gracious in sharing information from their archives.

Skip did lose his wife in 1951, and details of Faye’s death are factual, but he did remarry and was survived by his second wife, Phenie. In the matter of Skip’s death, fiction was far kinder than reality. Instead of passing quietly away in the barber shop he loved, Skip suffered a debilitating stroke. Complications from the stroke claimed his life a year later. Ross Benedict is completely fictional, but Skip did at one point want very much to take in two boys to live and work on the farm. My knowledge of that intention provided the “What if” that is the fountainhead for all story tellers.

The novel originally was written as a gift to my own children, Skip’s great-grandchildren, because I wanted to capture for them the grandfather I so idolized and whom they would never really know. I owe my mother, Jorita, unending gratitude for graciously allowing me to tell this story in which she plays a large part and for her permission to invent or alter details of Skip’s and her life for the sake of the narrative. My oldest sister Karen, with her absolute recall of almost everything, helped validate memories that comprise the chapters about the family’s visit to the farm. My friend Lin Settle provided invaluable insights and suggestions through multiple revisions. Foremost, however, my husband Rick was patient and supportive throughout the entire process, uncomplaining as I spent countless hours at the computer and ever confident that the story would sometime find a wider audience.


  • Format: Kindle eBook

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