MIXED BLESSINGS by Marian Cockrell


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That old reliable, the boarding house comedy drama--in a pleasant Southern 1902 version starring orphan-landlady Alfreda (Freddy) Esmond and featuring a happily inevitable diningroom--ful of lovable eccentrics. Nineteen-year-old Freddy's elegant mother has just been killed in a collision with the only auto in town, and Freddy's rich fella Rob is too scared of his Pa to become a poor girl's fiance, so the only way to make ends meet (and save money for little brother Jason's med-schooling) is to take in boarders. First to arrive is spiritual maverick Mr. Clarkson, who sticks hexes on foreheads and delivers a free-associating grace before each meal (""Dear Father in Heaven, bless this food to our use and help us to remember that Ping-pong is not a suitable recreation for refined young ladies. . .""). Mr. Clarkson will have a crisis when greedy relatives try to have him committed, just as irascible Mrs. Pike will have a crisis when her long-lost son Harlow returns (a jailbird and social outcast), just as uptight Mrs. Leavitt will have a crisis when stifled daughter Celia falls for the above-mentioned Harlow. And everyone will share a crisis when scarlet fever attacks: Mrs. Pike nursing Mrs. Leavitt (""as soon as you get well I plan to murder you""), overworked Freddy detesting and then starting to like (!) the bad-mannered, arrogant doctor who keeps them all from dying. (Just like Pride and Prejudice--and why not?). Unfashionably blameless, but painless--and a modest blessing in no disguise at all.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1978
Publisher: Times Books