Title: Vinegar Hill
Publisher: Viking, New York
Publication Date: 1994
Book Condition: Very Good
Dust Jacket Condition: Very Good
Edition: Review Copy
PHOTO OF ACTUAL BOOK BY BOOK SELLER. Lid in is a news bulletin from Viking, as well as a request for 2 copies of a written review. Dust wrap not price clipped, no markings, the ffep was clipped. Collectible- gift quality. Bookseller Inventory # 002043
Synopsis: A sad, funny, lyrical debut novel about gritty small-town life and one woman's struggle to step beyond the boundaries of the familiar. In 1972, a woman returns to her Midwestern Catholic hometown and endures the presures of teaching, raising a family, and living in the bizarre household of her in-laws--who harbor a dark secret.
Review: Oprah Book Club® Selection, November 1999: Vinegar Hill is an appropriate address for the characters who populate A. Manette Ansay's novel of the same name. After all, when Ellen Grier and her family return to the rural hamlet of Holly's Field, Wisconsin, it's not exactly a happy homecoming. Her husband, James, has been laid off from his job in Illinois. And for the moment, the family has moved in with Ellen's in-laws, Fritz and Mary-Margaret, an unhappy pair who dislike their daughter-in-law almost as much as they despise each other:
The first time Ellen sat at this table she was twenty years old, bright-cheeked after a spring afternoon spent walking along the lakefront with James, planning their upcoming wedding. It was 1959 and she was eager to make a good impression. She didn't know then that Mary-Margaret disliked her, that she was considered Jimmy's mistake.Thirteen years later, in 1972, Ellen is back at the table with no escape in sight. Both she and her husband do find work. Yet James seems to settle a tad too easily into his old life, and shows no interest in finding a place of their own. Even worse, his job takes him away from home for weeks at a time, leaving Ellen to cope with her abusive in-laws.
In Vinegar Hill Ansay paints a searing portrait of the Midwest's dark side, of a rural culture infected with despair and ruled over by an unforgiving God. Yet she does hold out a grain of hope, too. Just as Ellen seems permanently entangled in familial desperation, she makes a surprising discovery about James's long-dead grandmother--a woman whose rebellious spirit inspires Ellen to rescue herself and her loved ones from the impinging darkness. This late-breaking redemption doesn't cancel out the preceding unhappiness: Vinegar Hill remains a tough, uncompromising tale, one that requires some fortitude to read. But those with the heart for it will be rewarded with fine, spare prose and a hopeful ending. --Alix Wilber
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