Vinegar Hill

Vinegar Hill

by A. Manette Ansay
2.8 80

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Overview

Vinegar Hill by A. Manette Ansay

In her debut novel, Manette Ansay writes of one woman's gradual realization that in order to reenvision her life she must break all the rules. It is 1972 and Ellen Grier finds herself back in the Midwestern hometown she thought she had escaped for good. Worse yet, she and her family have had to move in with her in-laws: narrow-minded, eccentric people who are as tough as the farm lives they have endured. Devout Catholics, they inhabit a world "as rigid, as precise as a church," and Ellen struggles to live by their motto: "A place for everything; everything in its place." But there is no place for Ellen -- fresh, funny, bright with passion -- in a house filled with the dust of routine and the ritual of prayer, the lingering bitterness of her in-laws' loveless marriage. She tries to be the model woman everyone expects her to be -- teaching at the Catholic school, coaxing her traveling-salesman husband through his increasingly irrational moods, caring for his aging parents -- but Ellen's hopes for her family's future collide with life in this bizarre household, and she worries over her wryly observant adolescent daughter and her timid young son. Encouraged by her friend Barb, a woman ostracized for being "modern" and "wild," Ellen begins to consider her own desires and dreams as well. Surrounded by the family's obsession with an exacting, angry God and the disquieting ghosts of the past, Ellen searches for a way to satisfy the demands of this rural community and its traditions until, at last, she discovers the family's darkest secret, one that frees her and changes her life forever.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060897840
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 04/11/2006
Series: Oprah's Book Club Series
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 655,800
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.61(d)

About the Author

A. Manette Ansay is the author of eight books, including Vinegar Hill, Midnight Champagne (a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award), and Blue Water. She has received the Pushcart Prize, two Great Lakes Book Awards, and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. She teaches in the MFA writing program at the University of Miami.

Hometown:

Port Washington, Wisconsin; now lives in New York City

Date of Birth:

1964

Place of Birth:

Lapeer, Michigan

Education:

MFA, Cornell University, 1991

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Vinegar Hill 2.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 80 reviews.
Auntielou More than 1 year ago
I read this book for book club and I found it very sad and depressing. I did finish the book because I wanted to see how it ended. Not one of my favorite books
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Short and sweet! Written very well! If the author wanted to set you into a tailspin of antidepressants....she succeeded! But sickeningly enough, I couldn't put it down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If a the quality of a book is judged by its ability to trigger the reader's emotions, then I would have to give this book five stars. It is extraordinarily well-written and provocative. However, I was deeply disturbed by the anti-Catholic themes running throughout the book and especially by the fact that our heroine finds that her spiritual ally is a woman who committed infanticide. Instead of suggesting that Ellen honestly reach out to family, friends, and/or clergy for help, the author seems to blame Ellen's Catholicism for her inability to discuss her problems with anyone. Prospective readers should be forewarned about these troubling themes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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The_Book_Wheel_Blog More than 1 year ago
Wonderful Read Vinegar Hill by A. Manette Ansay tells the story of Ellen, a young woman who is forced to move in with her in-laws after her husband loses his job. Chastised for wanting a college education and never quite good enough in the eyes of her mother-in-law, Ellen chooses to support her husband by silently accepting the decisions he has made for their family.  Set in the early 1960′s, when leaving a marriage was nearly unthinkable, the reader is able to walk alongside Ellen as she lives day to day with her distant husband, violent father-in-law, and subtly cruel mother-in-law. Although Ellen is the main character, various chapters give the reader a glimpse into the minds of the other characters, including the children, which allows for a bit of balance and empathy for the others. When I finished reading Vinegar Hill (an Oprah Book Club pick in 1999), I couldn’t shake the image of a volcano with lava slowly pouring out of it and cascading into neighboring areas. This is not because there are any volcanos or natural disasters in the book, but rather due to the author’s way of telling the story with an underlying heat and a slow and smooth style of writing. At its core, each character is angry and trying to make sense of their current situation. Their angers are bubbling just below the surface and reach out to touch each of the other characters in ways that they don’t anticipate or recognize. Despite each character having their own struggles, they all boil down to their current living arrangements, which has magnified their individual issues into a toxic atmosphere in which each person is feeding off of the negative energy of the others. Despite the steady flow of the book, there were a few story lines that were left unfinished. Granted, they weren’t vital to the story as a whole, but they incited some empathy in me for some of the characters and I was left wondering whether my empathy was misplaced. Vinegar Hill is a book that can be read in one sitting, preferably on a cold or rainy day.  It’s melancholy and realistic portrayal of a difficult marriage in the early 1960′s is heartbreaking and, I can imagine for those a bit older than me, a familiar story. Side note: After reading an interview with the author, I learned that she was in a similar living situation. This added a depth to the book that was not previously there and made me look back on the book even more fondly.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book left me with nothing to feel better about at the end of it, completly disheartening.
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luv2read4mysanity More than 1 year ago
Interesting book in its own way, but not a favorite
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Incredible good fiction. Ms. Ansay has the power to describe even the most despicable situations in beautiful language. This is the story of a man who moves his family to his parents home after loosing his job. Once he goes back, the whole family starts to unravel. James is a tormented man who suffered physical and mental abuse from his father and brother during his childhood. His father still belittles him and hits him but he still seems like a child powerless to stop it. His mother is an unstable woman who hides in religion to survive the terrible secret she carries. Ellen, James wife, turns to pills to numb the suffocating atmosphere of this home and is also powerless to break the cycle that is allineating her children from her, specially her oldest daughter. She tries to reach to her family, but neither her sisters or her mother understand since they are highly traditional and religious, therefor, marriage is forever no matter what. It is a novel about people reaching the end of the rope in an unbearable situation where mental unstability touches almost all of the characters. But the ending is hopeful and teaches that we all can break free one way or another. I highly recommend it to all those fiction enthusiasts who love tragic multilayered characters. I also recommend As God Commands, Back Roads, Sarah's Key.
reading_rainbows More than 1 year ago
This was extremely depressing and after finishing the book, I really could not seem to find what the overall message was. Every character in this story frustrated me at some point. I felt if you didn't know what year Ansay was writing about you would think early 1900's with the way everyone stayed in a loveless marriage in the novel. However, the novel was supposed to be taking place in 1972. Some things like the portrayal of the time period, along with certain events in the characters' lives seem unrealistic. I do have to hand it to Ansay for having an eloquent way of writing. Her style of writing was almost like descriptive poetry. I really enjoyed how she ties the chapter's beginning paragraph with the chapter's last paragraph. It's a quick read, but you are constantly waiting for something big to happens which it really never does. I cannot believe this is part of Oprah's book club. To me, this book does not compare with Toni Morrison's works or Wally Lamb's works.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This boook was a good message who are going through things. Even though the plots(story) go back and forth. I understood the messeage in which it presented to other people. It's a good message. It's a good book
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