The protagonist in this novel, Myra, is not a sympathetic character. In the beginning one thinks she is doing the right thing for the right reason but with her small minded ways she eventually ruins both she and her husband's lives and so they live out their days in misery.
Myra was an orphan raised by her very wealthy Great Uncle John and she was the apple of his eye. She had everything she wanted and then some. As she grew into her teen years she fell in love with the 'wrong' man, Oswald, according to her uncle. Oswald had put himself through University and had a promising future but there was bad blood and a grudge between Oswald's father and Myra's Great Uncle John. He and he forbade his great niece to have anything to do with Oswald.
Though it was forbidden she continued to write and to see him through her Aunt Lydia, who was their go between, and he had his letters to Myra sent there and she had hers to him posted from there.
Her uncle's will left her two thirds of his remaining fortune while one third was to go the the church. However if she married this man she would not see a penny.
The story was told at every family gathering. How Myra had fallen in love with with a man her uncle did not approve of and in eloping with him she lost a great fortune. Such a romantic story but unbeknownst to the family, as the years went on, Myra became condescending toward Oswald and was also a spendthrift. Of course the marriage soured somewhat but the couple remained together and Oswald was ever devoted to her.
As I read this small novel I wondered how Myra had come to be this way but then I realized that many marriages do indeed turn thusly. Cather has, in the writing of this novel, kept herself in check through the entirety of the book. I doubt there is a spare word throughout. It is a quick read and worthy of the reading but I was not charmed by it. I don't believe it was written to be a charming book. While it is a quick read I didn't find it an especially easy read. I don't believe it was written to be an easy read. There is so much between the lines here that I am sure I will one day need to read it again. Even now I am looking at it and thinking: Hmmm.......