Household Words

Household Words

by Joan Silber
     
 

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Winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award: "Unqualified praise goes to this rarity: an extraordinary novel about ordinary people."—Chicago Tribune
The year is 1940, and Rhoda Taber is pregnant with her first child. Satisfied with her comfortable house in a New Jersey suburb and her reliable husband, Leonard, she expects that her life will be predictable and

Overview

Winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award: "Unqualified praise goes to this rarity: an extraordinary novel about ordinary people."—Chicago Tribune
The year is 1940, and Rhoda Taber is pregnant with her first child. Satisfied with her comfortable house in a New Jersey suburb and her reliable husband, Leonard, she expects that her life will be predictable and secure. Surprised by an untimely death, an unexpected illness, and the contrary natures of her two daughters, Rhoda finds that fate undermines her sense of entitlement and security. Shrewd, wry, and sometimes bitter, Rhoda reveals herself to be a wonderfully flawed and achingly real woman caught up in the unexpectedness of her own life.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In Hemingway Pen Award winner Silber's novel, Rhoda Taber has a cushy existence in the Jersey burbs until illness and a death shatter her world and make her reevaluate her life. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Twenty-five years after its release, Norton is reissuing Silber's debut novel of a Jewish housewife, winner of the Hemingway Foundation/Pen Award. Silber's lean, aloof style, which made last year's Ideas of Heaven a National Book Award finalist, is evident here in her first novel about Rhoda Taber, an ordinary woman living an unremarkable life in a 1940s affluent New Jersey community. She's married to Leonard and they're expecting her first child, but "happily" cannot be applied to either of these states-Rhoda is cultured, bright and a great kidder, but her life is somehow hollow and ambiguously disappointing. She gives birth to Suzanne, an unlovely baby, goes to the beach with Leonard, socializes with people she ever so slightly disdains and watches her spectacular mother die. The stuff of life, both mundane and miraculous, is given the same steady treatment, creating a narrative at once familiar and oddly discomfiting. Leonard dies suddenly, leaving Rhoda a young widow with two small girls (including the prettier, overly emotional Claire), but surprisingly, the shape of Rhoda's life changes little. The men her friends fix her up with are all lacking a certain something. Leonard's death has left her wealthier, though she spends little more than she did before. The girls remain vaguely inadequate and out of her emotional reach. The girls grow, Suzanne into a lumbering, angry teenager and Claire into a girl hungry for attention, as Rhoda becomes ill. Her long decline is solitary, painful and a burden to her girls. Silber's exterior approach to storytelling (there is little self-reflection for her characters, and generally their thoughts are shielded from the reader) is an odd fit for acharacter study fashioned into a novel. Nonetheless, she creates a compelling portrait (made a bit haunting for its gaps) of an unsatisfied woman. Hardly new to the scene, this reprint may draw deserved attention to Silber's later work.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393328233
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
11/14/2005
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
350
Sales rank:
1,250,737
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.78(d)

Meet the Author

Joan Silber is the author of six previous works of fiction. Among many awards and honors, she has won a PEN/Hemingway Award and has been a finalist for the National Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Fiction Prize. She teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and lives in New York City.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
New York, NY
Date of Birth:
June 14, 1945
Place of Birth:
Newark, New Jersey
Education:
B.A., Sarah Lawrence College, 1967; M.A., New York University, 1980

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