DEAR FAMILY by Camilla Bittle


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 A gentle, quietly narrated family story, rife with recognitions of hometown life during the Depression and war years in a small Massachusetts rural community. In 1935, when Ed Beane loses his job in Holyoke, it's his mother-in-law, Grandmother Howard, who insists that wife Dorothy, their two children--Ruthie, 13, and Virgil, 11--and Ed's mother, Granny Beane, move in with her and unmarried Cousin Vera in Dorothy's old home--a commodious house in the town of Havenhill with its acres of ill-used farmland. But suddenly Dorothy finds, once they've moved, that the old home doesn't measure up: ``Now all the things she cared about, the things that gave shape and meaning to her life were gone--a home of her own,'' friends, and social gatherings. And Grandmother Howard, a doyenne of order and domestic ritual, sets a formal tone that the Beanes carefully respect but resent. Ed particularly is humiliated in a subservient role. Until the 40's, when Ed finally achieves a hard-sought life's work, there will be failures and edgy intrafamilial and marital periods, but on a day in 1941, Granny Beane's birthday, Dorothy feels ``joy and contentment'' in a family finally meshed after those hard places have been made smooth. Then there's the march of generations, and tragedies begin--though by the close, Ed and Dorothy will find their real home. For those who remember rural New England Depression years, a treat with nostalgic recognitions--from hot summer suppers of peas and bread-and-butter to a winter town pageant, attended by such as ``old men in their Sunday suits with black overcoats folded across their knees.'' For others--a quiet chronicle from a vanished era couched in its mores and manners.

Pub Date: Aug. 22nd, 1991
ISBN: 0-312-05847-0
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1991