My rating: 9/10. What a sweet book! A fast-reading pick-me-up, full of gentle humour and most likeable characters.
Reminiscent of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s early stories, in the very best way.
Molly Mason sits down at her bedroom dressing table, feeling very much fat, fifty-two and fidgety. She can’t quite put her finger on the reason, though. Her life has evolved along pleasant lines; from humble beginnings her husband has progressed from clerkdom to bank president over the decades of their happy marriage. Molly’s five children, eleven-year-old Junior, sixteen-year-old Eleanor, twenty-one year old Marcia, twenty-two-year-old Katherine, and twenty-five-year-old Bob, are healthy, bright and brimful of fire and ambition in their various very individual ways. A girlhood friend, fallen on hard times, lives in as companion and paid household help; the two get along famously well. Her marriage is deeply happy in a quiet, contented way; her husband doesn’t say much but he’s always ready to support her when needed and obviously loves Molly deeply though undemonstratively.
A happy home life, no money worries, a respected social position, lots of useful and generally pleasant work to occupy her time and energy – what could possibly be causing Molly’s middle-aged angst? Could it be the constant demands on her time both in the family and the community? Complimentary though the people around her are of her constant contributions, Molly is tired of always being the dependable one without whom things just can’t seem to happen. She can’t help herself, though she knows she has a darned good life – right now she feels like running away.
So she does.
Upon her return from several days in the city, which she has spent in a hotel, dining out, visiting the theatre and art gallery and, very briefly, having a tiny bit of dental work done – her erstwhile reason for the trip, misrepresented by Molly as more complicated than it actually is to buy her the time away – she is greeted with a long list of the occasions she was supposed to preside over in her absence; they’ve all been rescheduled so she wouldn’t miss a single one. To do her credit, Molly Mason sees the humour, and ruefully laughs.
This is an example of the mild adventures described in this book. Each chapter follows a member of the Mason household as they face their particular challenges and find a happy resolution.
This is an appealingly written, cleverly humorous domestic drama. It may sound ho-hum described like that, but I found that I enjoyed it greatly. Bess Streeter Aldrich tends to deal with extended flashbacks and rushed narrative to get her characters from the start to the finish of their lives within the period of her books; this book is an exception. It is very much in the here and now, with all activity narrated in the present tense. And it works exceedingly well; a similar approach might have addressed some of the flaws in certain of her other books, which I felt packed too much time-gone-by into too small a narrative package.
A feel-good book, easily polished off in an evening or two. I would recommend it for the L.M. Montgomery fan, or anyone else needing a fictionally gentle trip back in time to an absolutely decent American small town, just post World War I.
The copyright date in this book, 1916, disagrees with the publishing date found elsewhere, usually 1924, which is the latest publication date in my edition, following 1916, 1918, 1919 and 1920; I then discovered that some of these chapters originally appeared as magazine stories, which would explain the episodic nature of the book.