Set in the conformist 1950s and reaching back to span two world wars, Ellen Bakerís superb novel is the story of a newlywed who falls in love with a grand abandoned house and begins to unravel dark secrets woven through the generations of a family. Like Whitney Ottoís How to Make an American Quilt in its intimate portrayal of womenís lives, and reminiscent of novels by Elizabeth Berg and Anne Tyler, Keeping the House is a rich tapestry of a novel that introduces a wonderful new fiction writer.
When Dolly Magnuson moves to Pine Rapids, Wisconsin, in 1950, she discovers all too soon that making marriage work is harder than it looks in the pages of the Ladiesí Home Journal. Dolly tries to adapt to her new life by keeping the house, supporting her husbandís career, and fretting about dinner menus. She even gives up her dream of flying an airplane, trying instead to fit in at the stuffy Ladies Aid quilting circle. Soon, though, her loneliness and restless imagination are seized by the vacant house on the hill. As Dollyís life and marriage become increasingly difficult, she begins to lose herself in piecing together the story of three generations of Mickelson men and women: Wilma Mickelson, who came to Pine Rapids as a new bride in 1896 and fell in love with a man who was not her husband; her oldest son, Jack, who fought as a Marine in the trenches of World War I; and Jackís son, JJ, a troubled veteran of World War II, who returns home to discover Dolly in his grandparentsí house.
As the crisis in Dollyís marriage escalates, she not only escapes into JJís stories of his familyís past but finds in them parallels to her own life. As Keeping the House moves back and forth in time, it eloquently explores themes of wartime heroism and passionate love, of the struggles of menís struggles with fatherhood and war and of womenís conflicts with issues of conformity, identity, forbidden dreams, and love.
Beautifully written and a...
Ellen Baker was born in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, and grew up in Wisconsin and Illinois. She earned a masters degree in American studies from the University of Minnesota, worked as curator of a World War II museum, and is currently a bookseller and event coordinator at an independent bookstore. She lives with her husband in Wisconsin.
From the Hardcover edition.
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