Wednesday, June 5, 2013


Finished Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. Published in 1980, it won the PEN/Hemingway Award for best first novel. This book is very cerebral. The narrator Ruth describes her surroundings and her thoughts and reactions to them with sparkling prose. Ruth and her younger sister Lucille live with their grandmother after their mother commits suicide. After their grandmother dies two spinster great aunts arrive to fuss and worry over them and themselves. They are woefully unfit for the task of raising children and enlist the help of their niece Sylvie, aunt to the two girls. Sylvie is a most unconventional aunt. She is a transient who rides the rails, from town to town, job to job, free from ties and restrictions. As soon as Sylvie arrives from Montana, the two great aunts decamp, leaving her in charge of housekeeping.

Sylvie does her best to look after Ruth and Lucille and the house that they live in, but it's just not what she's used to. Their schedule becomes quirky and their lives offbeat. As Lucille begins to mature she rejects Sylvie's eccentricities and leaves to go live with the Home Economics teacher from school, whose home in undoubtedly the exact opposite of Sylvie's household. Ruth loves Sylvie and sees a lot of her mother in her. The more time she spends with Sylvie the more like her she becomes. The various ladies of the the town begin to take notice of all this and voice their concern. They bring casseroles and the sheriff. When it becomes clear that Sylvie will lose guardianship of Ruth the two take desperate measures.

Oh how I love a good coming of age novel. Why is that I wonder? This one was excellent.

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