Over the spring the wonderful Persephone Books gave me the opportunity to read and review their book The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher (Persephone book No. 7) So while this is terribly late in coming, I do hope you enjoy this review, I hope you consider adding Persephone books to your list of book sources, and I also hope you might consider reading The Home-Maker.
This is a wonderful little gem of a book, little mostly in size, but not in story. No, indeed, this is the story about people. About life. About the interactions between family members when life isn’t so perfect even though from the outside, all appears to be perfection.
This story is set in a three person perspective; from Eva’s, Lester’s, and Stephen’s point of view. At the heart of the story is Eva Knapp. Mother of three and wife to Lester. She’s a perfectionist, a little controlling, but deep down, all she does and all she demands comes from her devotion to both the children and Lester. She worries about her willful son, Stephen, who at three seems to be going through that stage of almost being “like the traditional changeling, hard, heartless, inhuman.” Or so Lester, at one point, thinks to himself about his son. Stephen has his own troubles from a disappearing Teddy, to a mother who seems to always be correcting him. It’s a lot of work being only three.
Eva is also troubled with her two other children; Henry who has a weak system, and Helen who just needs guidance. And lastly, she worries about her husband, who just doesn’t seem to have the drive to move up in the company he works for.
Lester is a dreamer. A writer. A man destined for more than working the numbers at the Emporium. Then suddenly he is faced with having been let go. How in the world he will ever tell Eva, knowing how much she relies on him, and how much he wants to give her, but can’t seem to make happen. There is only one solution. To end his life and the insurance policy will take care of Eva and the children.
But the ‘accidental’ leap from the roof fails to accomplish what Lester was hoping, and now he is paralyzed from the waist down. Now life changes as Eva has to become the breadwinner and Lester the home-maker. Eva ends up working for the Emporium and making a smash of her position, moving up quickly. And Lester? Well, surprisingly, being a home-maker is the perfect job for him as suddenly there are happy children and a happy home.
Eva has a true purpose in life instead of always feeling like she can’t accomplish a perfect house, and Lester finally can be the dreamer he needs to be. The question is, will this continue this way? Will Lester ever recover and will Eva go back to being the housewife? It’s not till the very end of the book we find out.
I read this book quickly and found myself touched in so many ways. I can feel the inner desperation from Eva as she tries so hard to make everything just so, and just right for her family. As she scrubs the floor trying to rid then of grease spots only to have her son dribble grease the next night. I wanted to cry for Eva because I saw myself in an instant what I could be if I was a mother. That turmoil to micromanage and control everything in an uncontrollable existence. Feeling like you are doing everything right while your own family thinks you don’t care a whit about them.
I want to scoop Stephen up and comfort him, but at the same time, when I see him from Eve’s side, I want to send him to his room with no supper.
Eva loves her husband from her side. Adores him practically. From Lester, he always feels like he can’t measure up. Eva adores her children, in her own way, but from their point, she’s always displeased with them.
This is a book about two sides of the story. And in a very simplistic view, a book about how sometimes the hand we are dealt in life is not what we should actually be doing. Sometimes the woman is just not the home-maker. And that’s okay.
I can honestly say this is a very impressive book and there are not too many books today that could ever match up to the mastery Dorthy Canfield Fisher has created in such a small novel. I would send this to any friend and feel I could read it again and again pulling out every nuance. This will be a book I treasure for years to come.
Again, I hope you consider trying out this book along with checking out Persephone Books. They are truly a little gem of the book world.
- If Persephone Had Been A Publisher (via katesbookshelf.wordpress.com)