Tuesday 12 March 2024



Title: Little Avalanches
Becky Ellis
Regalo Press
Biographies, Memoir, Parenting, Families
Release Date:
12th March 2024

A daughter’s quest for truth. A soldier’s fight for survival. Their shared search for understanding.

Little Avalanches is a gorgeously written memoir of breathtaking scope that propels readers from the beaches of California in the early ‘70s to the battlefields of World War II.

As a young girl, Becky is forced to hide from phantom Nazis, subjected to dental procedures without pain medication, and torn from her mother again and again. Growing up in the shadow of her father’s PTSD, she wants to know what is wrong but knows not to ask.

Her father won’t talk about being a Timberwolf, a unit of specially trained night fighters that went into combat first and experienced a 300 percent casualty rate. He returns home with thirteen medals, including a Silver Star, and becomes a doctor and well-respected member of the community, but is haunted by his past.

Seeing only his explosive and often dangerous personality, Becky distances herself from the man she wants to love. Yet on the eve of his ninetieth birthday, when Becky looks at the vulnerable man he’s become, something shifts, and she asks about the war. He breaks seventy years of silence, offering an unfiltered account of war without glory and revealing the extent of the trauma he’s endured. She spends the next several years interviewing, researching, and ultimately understanding the demons she inherited.

Because his story is incomplete without hers, and hers is inconceivable without his, Ellis offers both, as well as their year-long aching conversation marked by moments of redeeming grace. With compassionate, unflinching writing, Little Avalanches reminds us that we are profoundly shaped by the secrets we keep and forever changed by the stories we share. 

Goodreads Link

I really love the cover of this book, and it is the first thing that attracted me to the book. The figures we see the lower halves of represent Becky, the author of the book and her father. Becky is standing on her father’s boots, on her own tip toes in her beloved “mary jane” shoes trying to reach her father probably to give him a kiss. The cover really fits the concept of the book so well, Becky always trying desperately to reach her father. I love the cover even more after having read the book and making this comparison.

The book is told in three parts. Part One is the story of Becky’s younger years. Becky’s parents are no longer together. Her mother Anne is a hardworking nurse and basically single parent to Becky and her older brother Martin. At the start of the book Martin is 6years old and Beky is just 5 years old. The book begins with their father turning up at the house again, the former family home Becky and her mum & brother finally moved back into when their father agreed to move out. Becky’s father turns up whenever he wants to the former family home, banging on the door depending to be let into the home. Anne ushers the children into the bathroom, telling them to get into the tub to hide. However, Becky’s father gets into the house, finds them and actually smiles at them as if it’s perfectly normal to be sat, hiding in the bath tub with your clothes on. When the police arrive, their mum declines the offer to press charges knowing it would go on her ex-husbands record and he is a well-respected Doctor/Surgeon. There’s also an upcoming court date as their father has filed for full custody saying their mother is an unfit parent! The children are going to speak to the judge regarding the way their father treats them when he has them at his home. The way they have to sleep on the floor, and he doesn’t feed them until after 10pm in the evening, that theirs no routine, he doesn’t even remind them to brush their teeth or haor and he drinks like a fish too! On the day of the court hearing their mum reminds them to tell the judge about their dad’s girlfriend, Judy who is half his age, and brings drugs to the house, and continually, openly smokes pot!

Becky knows its an important special day when she receives a brand new pair of black shiny mary jane shoes that she has been wishing for, for such a long time, her old shoes are so worn out and shabby looking now. Martin has to wear his smart corduroy trousers, there his only pair without holes. Anne tries her best for her kids but there’s never much money around for new clothes etc. The fact her ex-husband Louis is constantly taking her to court, accusing her of being a bad mother doesn’t help either. Becky is absolutely besotted with her new shoes but sadly the shine is literally taken off them when she accidentally scrapes one of them when going over to hug her dad in the courtroom. It’s sad that Martin and Becky are in the middle and are trying so hard wanting to please both parents whilst favouring neither in front of the other. Becky and Martin also like their dad’s girlfriend Judy too, she calls them by nicknames, Beck-a-boo & Motor Scooter. Judy makes visiting fun. It’s not long until Judy is pregnant and baby Shena arrives. When Judy and their father split up they actually miss her and the funs they had with her.

When the new girlfriend comes along and they visit and have to sleep on the floor, they try to comfort Shena who is upset. They make her a bed on the sofa, unfortunately she messes herself in the night and Lucy is livid about her posh sofa and blames Matin and Becky for not making Shena sleep on the floor with them. Martin & Becky try to watch out for Shena when Lucy lets situations get out of control by allowing her to drink alcohol. Louis, their father comes across as a strange man, on one hand he has no routine for the children, no set meal times or bedtimes. Then on the other when its their birthday he has a tradition that they have to ski behind his boat! Something Becky really doesn’t want to do, but her father is determined she will do, even if it takes him an expensive full tank of fuel for her to do. It’s a kind of weird, tough love. When they return home to their mother Anne with their stories and on one occasion Martin being so seriously sunburnt, he can hardly bend his legs there isn’t much she can do except deal with the sunburn!

Part Two is the story of Louis, the Timberwolf, the night fighter leading men on literal suicide missions against the Nazis. The way he went days without food. Then being told he had done enough and could go home, only for it to be changed at the last minute and being sent further into enemy territory to fight again.
This section is set out kind of like a diary or journal of each day, each military operation he undertook. The men he lost in battle. How they couldn’t even trust civilians, as if they turned their backs a civilian may shoot them too! The constant poor, wet, muddy, cold conditions they had to live in.

Part Three is sort of the breakthrough between Becky and her dad. Becky is older, now married herself with kids. Her dad Louis visits her twice a year, for a week in March and then again for a week in October. Louis refers to her Mercedes car as a Nazis mobile, even all these years after the war he is verbal about his dislike for the Nazis or krauts as he also refers to them as. He doesn’t like them or anything they make, including her Mercedes.
It's in this section of the book that we learn about a younger Louis and his parents, Louis finally begins to open up to Becky. Louis has been married four times, has eight children and has never explained anything about himself or his time as a Timberwolf to any of them. It’s during a visit when Louis is 89years old that he sits down and asks Becky if there are any issues between them that she wants to talk about. Becky takes the opportunity and says she wants to talk about the war. They then start talking, Louis reveals how he had signed up for the air force, he loved flying. He had co-piloted for his mother on numerous occasions. His mother flew her plane all over going to different suffrage movement meetings. She spoke to women about having minds of their own and urged them to have their own careers. Unfortunately for Louis, during his medical a problem was found that had been caused by multiple ear infections. His dream of being a pilot in the Air Force were over. However, because he had signed papers he “belonged to the army” and they placed him in the ground forces. His mother tried to get her influential friends to help out to get him out, but they couldn’t help. Even after all Louis went through in the army, he didn’t expect such a poor reception when he returned home. His parents were disappointed, it was almost as if his mother preferred the social standing she would get if he had died in service than him surviving and coming home. His younger brother Bob had been terribly injured and his parents somehow blamed him for not protecting him!! Louis’s father called both his sons “bums” as they should have gone to college, he actually said Only bums join the ground forces of the army!!

It's so sad to think about all Louis had seen in the army, all his colleagues that were lost, all the suffering, to then come home and be almost snubbed by your own family and seeing them disappointed in him. He was no doubt suffering flashbacks and PTSD. It does explain some of his actions with his own children. The way he insisted they both know how to handle a gun from a very young age. When Becky went to the dentist he refused drugs, saying she was tough and didn’t need them.

I honestly really loved this book, it is certainly not a light hearted read but a thought provoking, moving, heart wrenching, heart breaking yet engrossing, unputdownable tale of a relationship between father and daughter. It is the story of a man that survived battle upon battle, carried out hopeless missions and succeeded, he survived the war and was recognised for his bravery and work as a Timberwolf, but he never really ever came home, he never really recovered from what he had seen, done and had to live through.

Summing up this book tells us the reader how all that Timberwolf, Louis saw, did and went through affected him and went on to then affect his wives, partners and children. I adore how Becky persisted with her father and he finally opened up to her. Finally she had an explanation for some of her father’s actions and traits. It is an amazing read that I highly recommend reading. 


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