Keeping the House by Ellen Baker

Posted on: 10 July, 07

Keeping the House by Ellen Baker

Most of my reading selections are based on the recommendations of other people. Through trial and error, I have learned who has similar taste in books. I read Keeping the House as part of an Early Reviewers program. Without the recommendation of a trusted source, I was not sure what to expect from this book. Though I had my doubts along the way, this book did not disappoint.

Keeping the House opens in 1896 with Wilma arriving in Pine Rapids with her new husband. When Chapter Two flashed forward to Dolly in 1950, I feared how Baker would handle two story lines and time shifts, but Baker handled it beautifully. Dolly is also a newlywed arriving in Pine Rapids to set up her first home. She becomes intrigued with the abandoned at the top of the hill. Naturally, it had been Wilma’s house. As Dolly learns more about Wilma and her family, we also learn Dolly’s story.

The story of Wilma and her family is filled with heartbreak, unfulfilled dreams, and secrets. Her children fight in World War I and her grandchildren in World War II. The plot line is not terribly original, but Baker makes you care about the characters. Dolly becomes so engrossed in learning about the house on the hill that she perilously neglects her own marriage.

Some readers might have difficulty understanding the female characters’ views on marriage. Their views are spot on for the time periods of the book, which is why they seem so alien to the modern woman. Baker did a satisfactory job of supporting their views as typical of the times. However, I feel she needs to make a stronger effort to convince a younger audience that women really did behave this way.

Overall, the story is engaging. The characters are believable and real. No one is truly good or bad. They all struggle with their own issues. I found it refreshing that the ending was not entirely happy. It would have been easy to tie up all the loose ends in a neat little bow. I think it is more interesting to leave the ending a little messy, just like real life.


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