Tammy was seventeen years of age in Tammy Out of Time, which was published in 1948. In the third and final book in the series, Tammy in Rome, the action takes place in 1964. She is still specifically age 17. She recognizes herself that she is not simply a creature of her own era.
Near the end of Tammy Out of Time, we read, ‘”Beyond time,” Tammy repeated. “I reckon I been living outside of time all my born days. Not just account of having no clocks to mark its passing but because–” She paused, trying to find the words.’
‘”Because,” Miss Renie said all at once, “because you have been concerned with the fundamentals of living, the universals.”‘ (p. 234)
The fundamentals of living, the universals, are God’s truth as revealed in the Bible. Tammy and her grandfather Dinwoodie may be poor, financially, but they are rich in what is most important–understanding that life can best be lived by believing God and living the way He wants us to live.
Tammy’s purity, then, is not an accident. It is a result of how she was raised, and of the fact that she has internalized that teaching, and has believed God’s truth as revealed in the Bible. In the second book we read that she had up to that point never been in a church building! But under the tutelage of her grandfather (and of her grandmother until she died), Tammy has absorbed the fundamentals of the Christian faith–and lives them. She lives outside of time.
When she has to leave the shanty boat, Tammy struggles to fit into the Brent family way of life.
‘The ways of people puzzled Tammy, what they did and why. She set her mind to figure them out, questioning one or another of the household. But there were times when a strangeness came over her, holding her back, troubling her in a way that was new to her. Then she saw herself through their eyes–shabby, alien and unknowing, lowly. She saw that her manner of talking was not like theirs and she tried to improve her speech. Miss Renie, hearing her catch back an “ain’t,” began to help her with such things.
‘But even with fine clothes and proper speech Tammy was afeard she would not ever blend with the world here. Her way of thinking was too different. It must be that her life on the river had marked her and set a great gulf between her and these people.’ (p. 117)
Tammy, like all of us, has the need of human companionship, as well as the need for romantic love. Her grandfather is a good and thoughtful man, but when she and her grandfather rescue Pete Brent from drowning, and she nurses him back to health, she recognizes, “It would sure be nice to have somebody talk to her, somebody young like this. She’d been fair aching for somebody to talk back and forth with.” (p. 25) She falls in love with Pete Brent. Most of the first book tells what happens when her grandfather’s arrest forces Tammy to the home of the Brents. Will she and Pete end up a couple? Pete already has a prospective wife, Barbara. Read the books for yourself, if you want to know.
In the second book, Tammy Tell Me True (1959), one of the plot lines has Tammy involved with a beautiful, wealthy, but self-absorbed college student named Rita. Rita has an affair with a married man, becomes pregnant and plans to abort the baby. (This is a plot line completely left out of the movie “Tammy Tell Me True.”) Tammy immediately recognizes the wrongness of murdering an unborn child. If Rita will consent to bring the baby to term, Tammy volunteers to take the baby!
How that plays out we discover in the final book in the series, Tammy In Rome (1965).
These books are not easy to find, and usually not cheap. Research yesterday discovered the following prices. Tammy Out of Time (total cost $38.39 at abebooks). But if you have a Kindle or some similar electronic reading device, you can obtain the book for just $2.99 on amazon. A cheaper price for a print book could spring up; the copy I was able to get a few months ago was more reasonably priced.
Tammy Tell Me True was $11.44 (total, shipping included) at abebooks. Slightly more at alibris.
Tammy In Rome was $17.62 (total) at abebooks. A bit more at amazon.
These books deserve a wider audience. I hope print on demand will eventually make all three books much more available. Christians especially should discover these books. They would make ideal reading material for parents and children to read together. They would provide a springboard for useful discussions about the meaning of life. The books are clean. One time late in the second book Tammy utters a vulgar word. I am not sure if “Homer nodded,” or if Tammy was simply responding to the enormous emotional pressure she was under at the time due to an unjust accusation.
The movies are a pale imitation of the books. However, I definitely don’t want to be too hard on the movies. They introduced us to a wonderful character. The movies are not close to the depth of the books, but still they give us a fair idea of the wonderful Tammy. Barring a miracle, I would never have heard of the books had I not first seen “Tammy Tell Me True” in the early 60s, and had not viewed the first three films on DVD in recent years. The movies cry out to be remade by someone who wants to follow the books’ plots more closely, and who is idiotic enough to believe that just maybe the Christianity of Tammy and her grandfather might really have something to teach us about how the world is put together. It takes all types to make up the world. Maybe someday such a filmmaker will arise. Meanwhile, thank you to the original filmmakers for at least giving us a decent hint at the character of Tammy. They have also given us two excellent songs (see below).
Debbie Reynolds played Tammy in the first movie. She was about 24 or 25 as the movie was produced, but was a believable Tammy (age 17). Her song “Tammy” was the best-selling single by a female vocalist in 1957. Debbie Reynolds (b. 1932-d. 2016) had a long and successful career in show business. She died one day after the death of her famous actress daughter Carrie Fisher. She had the typical Hollywood life.
The astonishingly beautiful Sandra Dee was either 19 or 17 when “Tammy Tell Me True” was released in 1961. (Her date of birth is uncertain; there may have been some fibbing going on when she began work as a model.) She is the perfect Tammy, both beautiful and innocent in appearance. Would that she had had better plots; she was in my opinion a gifted actress capable of even more, had the plots provided the more.) Sandra Dee (b. 1942-d. 2005; or perhaps b. 1944-d. 2005). She too did some excellent singing as Tammy. She sang both “Tammy Tell Me True” and a slightly different version of the original “Tammy.” Both are very good indeed, and the first listed is artfully filmed in “Tammy Tell Me True.” She had the typical Hollywood life. (Is there an echo in here?). She struggled with anorexia nervosa, depression, and alcoholism. She was sexually abused by her stepfather as a child. She was married to Bobby Darin (and of course divorced; she didn’t marry again); I have purchased her son’s book Dream Lovers: The Magnificent Shattered Lives of Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee, but it has not arrived yet.
Cid Ricketts Sumner (b. 1890-d. 1970) wrote about fourteen books, mostly fiction. She had an unusual life. She was homeschooled. She graduated from Millsaps College at age 18. In 1915 (age 24) she married a professor, James B. Sumner. The marriage ended in divorce 15 years later, but James B. Sumner shared the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1946. The marriage produced four children. One of her non-fiction books was Traveler in the Wilderness, an account of her time (at age 64!) with the Egger-Hatch river expedition through the Green and Colorado rivers. She participated only in the first year of the two year expedition, but was the only female member of the group.
Most unusual of all, she died at the hand of her grandson, bludgeoned to death with a hammer. Apparently it was a drug-related crime. As one writer put it, her violent death was a “shockingly-ironic contrast to the gentleness of her personality and her printed words.” She was 80 years of age. In Tammy, she has given us a character worth getting to know and admire and learn from. Cid Ricketts Sumner, thank you. Rest in peace.