LAELIA by Ruth-Miriam Garnett


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Sistahs take charge in Garnett’s first.

Rebecca, Claudia, and Gracelyn Cates, the dutiful middle-aged daughters of the formidable Reuben Cates, share the huge house he left to them with their husbands—but they look forward to the day when they are free at last from these triflin’ men. And that day isn’t far off, since all three males are candidates for nursing homes: Jake is demented after a head injury; Timothy is in terminal alcoholism, afflicted with the shakes; and Bernard has bone cancer. There’ve been other trials and tribulations: Jake’s untreated syphilis left his wife Rebecca infertile, though she stayed married to him for decades. But she built a successful orchid-growing business, specializing in the laelias of the title, and is still doing good works, true-believing Baptist that she us. Claudia endured her husband Timothy’s heavy drinking, as Gracelyn did Bernard’s bossiness. Once the ailing husbands can decently be moved out, the sisters blossom, each in her own way. Rebecca, for starters, would love to get rid of Pastor Wilson, who indulges himself in misogynistic rants. His wife Julia seems too docile—almost as if she’s afraid of him. Surely something is going on that folks ought to know about. A little investigating reveals the name of a surgeon, who turns out to have done breast augmentation for Julia—with the congregation’s hard-earned contributions. Dr. Randall Leighton had no idea where the money came from, but he is immediately smitten with Rebecca’s queenly dignity (and queenly bosom). Julia confesses: it was Wilson’s idea, not hers—and he has been abusing her physically for years. Claudia finds true love with Wayne, a muscular but gentle landscaper. Gracelyn finds her creative self in directing a children’s play about Harriet Tubman. But when Pastor Wilson finds fault with it, all hell breaks loose and the Cateses are right in the middle of it.

Quiet-toned and sometimes stiffly written, but not without an odd charm.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-7434-6630-6
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Atria
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2003