I had known "North of Crazy: A Memoir" author Neltje’s name as an abstract expressionist painter whose works could be seen at the Yellowstone Art Museum. But after reading her book, I now know that that is but one aspect of her fascinating life. As the daughter of publisher Nelson Doubleday, she grew up in New York and on a South Carolina plantation in a privileged family, with hard-drinking and neglectful parents who favored their son over a daughter.
At age 9, a family friend abused her. She married young, to an ambitious man who saw the value of marrying his boss’ daughter. They had two children. She moved to northern Wyoming only for the short residency required for a divorce, but ended up staying, establishing a ranch, restoring the Sheridan Inn, and eventually coming into her own as an artist, entrepreneur, philanthropist and a determined feminist.
Her family’s literary connections took her on some adventures that are sprinkled through the book, where readers will find mentions of Daphne DuMaurier, Bennett Cerf and W. Somerset Maugham. Other experiences include cocktails with the royal family of Britain and marching behind Martin Luther King Jr. from Selma to Birmingham.
The memoir is imperfect in its introspection of her life experiences, but an altogether absorbing read.
"North of Crazy: A Memoir" is a finalist in the High Plains Book Awards Creative Nonfiction category.