In this lyrical story of marriage and friendship, painter Hallie Greaves arrives at her mother’s bedside and her pregnant friend Rose Haas’s porch one hot July in Ohio. Hallie, Rose, and Hallie’s mother all confront a luminous, intertwining, and sometimes disturbing landscape of memory amid the mowed lawns, pools, luncheonettes, gardens, and churches of this small town. Hoping to give her mother courage, Hallie discovers she is in need of courage as well, as she faces her infertility, her marriage, and her art.
Harriet gives an overview of the book:
As a child, Hallie had admired Rose's superior knowledge of the world. Rose had known all about babies, and about the astonishing ovaries curled inside Hallie's and Rose's slender bodies, and the regal Fallopian tubes holding open passageways for the eggs that would one day emerge, and the sturdy uteruses, strong as Rose's fist when she shook it in anger. Rose would trace her finger along Hallie's belly, showing the position of each tight organ, as if she had the power to see through Hallie's skin, into the bowl of her future. Rose's house had been filled with babies—two came after Rose—and with information too. You could ask Rose's mother anything, Hallie thought, and she would not look shocked. Not that Hallie ventured such questions, but she saw how to make discoveries by just keeping her ears open when Rose or her older sister Catherine made inquiries.
For years, in fact, Hallie had believed that such information could only come in the form of an English accent, the Banfords having come to Ohio from England when Rose was four. Hallie had loved to hear Rose's mother speak, her voice gentle and odd. She's from Bath, Rose had told her, only she calls it Bahth. Bath? Hallie had asked doubtfully, amazed that a whole town could be named for something so small and ordinary. An improbable transplanting, Hallie mused now, as she looked up the H's in the phone book and saw Haas, Rose and William, 200 Broadway. Rose's father had been handsome, with hair over his forehead and a quick smile. He had been the editor of the newspaper in the bigger town nearby, a position that had seemed vaguely royal to Hallie. He wrote poetry, too, and two slender books of his poems sat right on the shelf of the Banfords' living room. All this was unusual in Hallie's world. Her mother and father read books, but she had never known someone who wrote them. She had tried to read his poems once, when she was about ten, and she remembered a lot of descriptions of trees, and one phrase: "you branch and flower."
Have an egg? he had asked her once at breakfast at Rose's house, his hair uncombed, his eyes bright, as if cut with light. Oh, yes, she had said, please, and she had blushed as he got her an egg cup and tapped the egg open for her, the insides yellow and smooth and wet, his fingers quick, scooping out the small bit of the egg's hat and offering it to her in the spoon. He had married again after Mrs. Banford's death, she had heard, a much younger woman, and Rose had written to her two years ago to say that he had died.
Harriet Scott Chessman is the author of three acclaimed novels: Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper, published in eight foreign countries and chosen as a #1 Booksense Pick in 2001; Someone Not Really Her Mother, a Good Morning America Read This! book club pick, translated...