“My name is Ruth.”

January 31, 2007

Housekeeping
I like it when books start like this. Simple. This is me. This is my story- my life. No embellishment, just my story. Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping is just that, a life story. As the story begins, Ruth is a young girl, which adds to the realism. Something about a young narrator makes a story more believable. Her life is not a typical life- her world changes regularly in a ways that the majority of children don’t have to face.

Although Gilead brought Marilynne into the limelight, I enjoyed Housekeeping more. It may be that the book took place in an era that I could relate to. Not quite, but closer to my childhood that I experienced than that experienced today. (hint- I remember getting to miss church one Sunday night to stay home and watch the Beatles storm the US via the Ed Sullivan show on our old 12 inch black and white tv.) Some of the insignificant scenes in the novel were the most appealing-

“In my earliest memories of her my grandmother was already up in years. I remember sitting under the ironing board, which pulled down from the kitchen wall, while she ironed the parlor curtains and muttered “Robin Adair.” One veil after another fell down around me, starched and white and fragrant, and I had vague dreams of being hidden or cloistered, and watched the electric cord wag, and contemplated my grandmother’s big black shoes, and her legs in their orangy-brown stockings, as contourless, as completely unshaped by muscle as two thick bones. Even then she was old.”

Remember when kids went outside to play after school until the streetlights came on, then dined on casserole, followed by homework and a warm bed? It was that time, but the childhood dealt to Ruth and her sister Lucille was not so simple, but well worth reading about.

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