What was your father thinking the night he proposed to your mother? Why did she say yes? By the time we ask, all the compelling details have cooled into whatever myths they've chosen to tell us. Our grandparents' stories are even more frozen, and the truths of our great-grandparents' unions have perished in the airless memories of the dead.
In ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF MARRIAGE Louise Farmer Smith pierces the myths through four generations of one American family's mismatched marriages-the teenage girl lifted out of the hunger and chaos that followed the Civil War; the suicidal wife isolated on the Oklahoma prairie; the china painter whose husband cannot make a living; and her daughter who dreams of luxury. Dark? Yes, but funny too.
These six stories move backward in time to search out the influences on the children--the standards, prejudices, and overheard conversations--they forget but carry with them when they choose a spouse.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.52(d)|
About the Author
She has taught English in high school and college, trained as a family therapist, and served on the staff of a U.S. Congressman.
She won Antietam Review, Potomac Review and Glimmer Train first place fiction prizes Her writing has appeared in four anthologies and on the internet as well as in literary journals including the Virginia Quarterly Review and Bellevue Literary Review which nominated her story for a 2005 Pushcart Prize.
Her work has been supported by fellowships from the Ragdale Foundation and The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She was a 2005 Bread Loaf Contributor.
Louise lives in Washington, DC, an endless source of material.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
One Hundred Years of Marriage, Louise Farmer Smith’s new novel-in-stories, examines the lives and marriages of four generations of a family over two centuries as it travels and resettles across the United States, and as each generation grapples with marriage-with the lies, secrets, abuses, sins of omission and commission perpetrated in the attempt to maintain the family and marital myths from one generation to the next. Smith’s compassionate, clear-eyed gaze doesn’t shy from either the horrors or the humor of the various circumstances in which these characters find themselves, whether a sodbuster’s wife in nineteenth century Oklahoma or a liberated young woman trying to reconnect with her rural roots in the 1970s. Nor does the book relay these stories in strict chronological fashion; instead, it offers readers a trajectory of emotional enlightenment, to reveal how the choices made by each generation affect those that follow, and how those subsequent generations’ reactions, whether consciously or not, conform to or struggle against those previous generations’ choices. Two of the stories I most enjoyed, “The Investment in Lillian Gish” and the Pushcart Prize-nominated “Return to Lincoln,” have a male character, Dan Hale, in common. In the former, he is the sweet but feckless husband whose inability to provide for his family necessitates the sale of Lillian Gish, his daughter’s pig, for some desperately needed cash. His wife Victoria despairs over the long-term effects such privation will have on their precocious daughters, even as she loves her husband and strives to honor and respect him. While she paints china and takes in sewing to eke out a living for the family, she recalls the chance she had to marry a rich baker; she chose instead to cast her lot with the other man, a choice she still does not quite seem to regret, any more than she regretted having his mother, Olivia, come live out her life with them. The next story, “Return to Lincoln,” reveals how Dan evolved into the man he became, in contrast with his hard, unemotional father. Smith’s ability to evoke laughter through tears is most in evidence in this story, as in a scene where Olivia, Dan’s mother, has been tied up by his father after they found her standing in the creek in her best dress, trying to throw a rope over a tree branch in an attempt at suicide. Her son’s best efforts to comfort her by practicing on a paper keyboard she had made for him meet no success: “Let’s do `True-hearted, Whole-hearted,’” I said. This was a marching kind of hymn, a good boys’ hymn, Mother used to say, because you could sing it plain and loud. I put my right hand on the keyboard, fourth finger on the F to start. I sang and thumped it out. . . I let my Amen ring up to heaven the way she’d taught me and felt I’d done us both some good. But when I turned to see if she was as swelled up as me, she was staring glassy-eyed at the ground, her face wet. I lifted the stones and let the paper keyboard roll itself back up. Harrowing, but funny, too. Smith’s examination of the lives and marriages of this far-flung family abounds with just such grace notes, and makes for a compelling read. Melanie McDonald