Book Review: One Tough Mother

One Tough Mother: Success In Life, Business, and Apple Pies, by Gert Boyle with Kerry Tymchuk

[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Carpe Diem Press in exchange for an honest review.]

As someone who enjoys reading both corporate histories well-stocked with entertaining advertising photos [1] as well as memoirs of success despite a difficult life [2], this book was a refreshing look at an eventful life from the busy “ChairMa” of Columbia Sportswear Company, Gert Boyle. Coming off as a fierce but loveable Jewish mother, deeply involved in the life of her family, tenacious, and loud and outspoken to the point of caricature, and also blessed with a strong social conscience, this book is a love letter to the Pacific Northwest and a fitting explanation of why Columbia has been able to survive the death of her late husband and the fickleness of changing fads and clothing habits: they never give up, never forget that their employees and customers are human beings and worthy of respect, and never forget to keep growing and keep showing themselves as human as well.

This book manages to combine a chronological approach to the life of the author with some added material that add a bit of spice to the account and that make it humane and even deeply humorous. The book begins with a foreword from former Oregon governor and US Senator Mark Hatfield, followed by a preface that talks about the moment the author transitioned from a housewife to the president of a struggling outerwear company upon the death of her husband from a heart attack in December 1970. The book then looks at Gert’s childhood as a German Jew going to school at a Catholic girl’s school in the shadow of Hitler’s Germany, only escaping as a result of the quick thinking of her parents, which led them to settle in the Portland area, where her father then bought a hat company and changed its name to reflect the river that runs through the area. The author then discusses her college experience, marriage to an Irish Catholic, and her life as a housewife. After the death of her husband, Gert is candid about the difficulties she and her son Tim faced in keeping the company afloat, and is quick to show off (and give credit to her marketing firm) for the success of her company’s campaigns to brand themselves around her as “one tough mother.” After discussing the success of her life, her company, and her family, she closes the book with a tasty apple pie recipe. The book is full of black and white photographs and copies of various marketing posters and still shots of television commercials, adding an artistic flair to an exuberant memoir.

This is the sort of memoir that brings credit to everyone involved. Ma Gert Boycle comes off as being humorous and tenacious, with a heartwarming story of an immigrant made good, who only had to spend a couple of weeks as a thirteen year old first grader upon her family’s arrival in the United States. She also shows herself as generous-spirited not only in donating the proceeds of the book to the Special Olympics and the Court Appointed Special Advocates of Multnomah, Washington, and Columbia counties, but also in the fact that she gives her able co-writer, Kerry Tymchuk, credit as a co-writer. The photographs add a sense of lightheartedness to the book as a whole, as well as touching family photos, and so everyone who has a part on this book has something to feel proud of. This is the sort of book that would likely fit well snuggled inside one of the pockets of a Bugaboo parka as someone is enjoying a slice of Gert’s Finger Apple Pie, a real winner, just like its author and the Columbia Sportswear Company as a whole.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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7 Responses to Book Review: One Tough Mother

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