This is one of those books I read years ago, but the characters are still lingering about in my head. It's the 1960s and Rose finds herself unhappily married and unhappily pregnant. She flees her husband, mother, and life and arrives at St. Elizabeth's home for unwed mothers, where she plans to give birth and leave, but probably not to return to her husband, who doesn't even know she's pregnant.
The nuns and other expectant mothers at St. Elizabeth's turn out to provide healing that Rose didn't even realize she was seeking. She finds herself questioning her decisions and as she gets closer and closer to her due date, she's not sure what she'll do.
The baby is born and the book takes a not entirely unexpected turn, but it's one that works and doesn't feel like a convenient plot device. As the story continued, I found myself really puzzling over the characters and the decisions they had made and wondering where Patchett was going to eventually lead us all.
The ending was amazingly satisfying in that it left many things hanging dangerously and I found myself writing the next few chapters in my mind, each time with different results. Patchett carefully crafts a story that needs to end with a giant question mark and force the reader to decide what will happen after the final sentence. It's brilliant, although readers who like all lose ends tied up might feel cheated.
I love when an author creates a character that I believe is living and has walked in reality. Patchett does it with not only the main character, but the others in the book. I believed in them and understood their decisions, confusion, and fear. Some books you read; this one I devoured.
I really enjoyed this book. . until I reached the end. It leaves you wanting more, and not in a good way. Its like a really good movie that ends abruptly & without any sort of finality, and you're sitting there feeling completely gypped. If I had to sum this book up in one word, the word would be 'unsatisfying'.
From Library Journal
Unanticipated pregnancy makes liars out of young women, this thoughtful first novel shows, as they try to rationalize, explain, and accept what is happening to them. When she arrives at St. Elizabeth's, a home for pregnant girls in Habit, Kentucky, Rose Clinton seems as evasive and deceptive as the other unwed mothers. But Rose is different: she has a husband whom she has deserted. Unlike most St. Elizabeth's visitors, she neither gives up her baby nor leaves the home, staying on as cook while her daughter grows up among expectant mothers fantasizing that they, too, might keep their infants. The reader learns from Rose how she came to St. Elizabeth's, but it is her doting husband and rebellious daughter who reveal her motives and helpless need for freedom. Together, the three create a complex character study of a woman driven by forces she can neither understand nor control.
The story was great. It kept me up late. I didn't expect the ending to be what it was. I am still thinking about the story, the characters, and I have been done with it for a few days. In my opinion that is what makes the book great. When your still thinking about it, wondering why this, or that . . . the author did his/her job well.
The novel is divided into 3 parts each with a different point of view. The first is from Rose "the one who is always leaving and is never left". She marries a man she doesn't love, gets pregnant and then gets in her car and drives away. From this point on you are trying to determine what in the world motivates this character to do the things she does. She finds herself in Habit, Kentucky where there is a home for unwed mothers that is run by the Catholic church. Here she decides to keep her baby and marries the caretaker. The voices of the daughter (Cecilia) and her second husband (Son) are far more compelling than the voice of Rose because they are befuddled by the coldness of Rose and bewildered by her attention to the girls in the home whereas they get none. There is a depth to them which is lacking in Rose. Maybe that is a point the author is trying to make. The second and third parts are also filled with characters who are young women who have gotten themselves into "trouble" and go to the home to have their babies to then give them away. The author does a wonderful job of helping you feel the turmoil and trauma these girls go thru.
I loved the title of this book and that is what made me choose it. If I had not been on PBS, I would never have known of this book. The book draws the reader in right at the beginning and does not let go, even after you finish it. The story is told from three different angles and the story unravels just enough to snag you for a long time. Consider reading this book, you will not be disappointed.
Absolutely wonderful book. Once you start reading, it is so hard to put down. I loved this book. Rose, although she is married goes to a home to have her child and stays on after to raise her there. Starting out telling one lie to cover for another until the biggest lie she is not able to cover in the end. Time well spent with this book.
I am giving this book four stars out of respect and not so much because (as the definition goes) I "really liked it".
In fact, I only read through the first section, written from Rose's point of view. Rose is a woman in her early twenties who has left her husband and found out she's pregnant, all in one period of time. She's living in a Catholic home for expectant mothers, in the late 1960s.
The writing, sentence by sentence, is inherently (maybe deliberately?) super-quotable. Still, as a reader, I was quickly drawn into the story and really found it to be an easy read. Easy doesn't mean pleasant, though. The draw was not excitement, or suspense, but kind of a sick sense of foreboding as you watch someone make a mess of their life.
By the time I got to the POV switch roughly 1/2 of the way through the book, I had to stop. I read primarily for pleasure - I don't want it to hurt.
However, again, I do think this was a well written, good quality book and if you are into more serious fiction, it is worth a look.
Ann Patchett's first book was Bel Canto, which was very successful. This was every bit as good a read. Patchett has a gift for portraying troubled characters whose lives overlap and how in that overlapping, the gift of healing occurs.
The ending was not what I expected (or had hoped for honestly), but the story leading up to it was so good that I am willing to forgive the author for the ending.
Overall a great read, really. Interesting subject matter.
This book takes you all the way from running away from a challenging situation to running to a rewarding one. The characters have integrity and wisdom and even if you go away from it for awhile as I did, it's not difficult to get back into the story quickly.
I was excited to read this book and while I did finish it I was disappointed in the ending. There was no great climax and the reader is left hanging wondering what will happen next. The author builds two of the three characters well, but leaves us a little confused as to the background of the main character which is probably intended. I would suggest this book to another, but for myself the ending seemed to do just that end!
This book was enjoyable, but not wonderful. It deals with a woman, Rose, who arrives at a home for unwed mothers, even though she herself is married, and what transpires during her stay there. The story mainly dealt with how the lies and ommissions of truth that we create have a lasting effect on our lives and the people we care for the most. All of the characters have a lie in their past that has prevented them from being able to truly connect to others. A good read, just not one I could rave about.
This story is told by three different narrators, Rose, Son, and Cecilia. Patchett divided it into three sections so that each period of the characters' lives was told by a different narrator, giving the reader only one viewpoint of the issues going on at the time. Therefore, I found it a little disconcerting that the first narrator's thoughts were no longer available to me when someone else was narrating. However, this device may have been employed to mirror the unavailability of Rose to her family members.
This was an enjoyable book which is beautifully written, and a wonderful character study. My biggest complaint is the ending; I felt cheated. Again, perhaps a device employed to mirror the feelings of some of the characters.
I read this after enjoying another of Ann Patchett's books. The setting for this book, a home for unwed pregnant girls, was unusual, and Rose, the main character, had a complex personality. She craved freedom, yet stayed for years as the cook at the home, and because of her need for freedom, lied her way through her years there. Although I think she came to love some of the people around her, she remained an enigma to those who loved her. I recommend this book!
The book was magnificently crafted, portraying unique but believable chracters that were wonderfully developed. It never ceases to amaze me how Ann Patchett, an obviously well-educated, white woman from a comfortable, functional family background (she's close to her mom), and who never had children herselef, grew up to write about such diverse human characters and experiences (male, African-American, troubled young adults, single pregnant women, distant mothers) as if she literally lived their lives.
One of the best books I've read in a while! I will look for more from this author. I read it quickly, wanting to find out what was next for these characters, and was never disappointed. I liked the ending especially.
Oh, wow, never heard of this author before, and I surely can't think why! I'm going out now to hunt down her other titles.
From back cover: St. Elizabeth's is a home for unwed mothers in the 1960s. Life there is not unpleasant, and for most, it is temporary. Not so for Rose, a beautiful, mysterious woman who comes to the home pregnant but not unwed. She plans to give up her baby because she knows she cannot be the mother it needs. But St. Elizabeth's is near a healing spring, and when Rose's time draws near, she cannot go through with her plans, not all of them. And she cannot remain forever untouched by what she has left behind . . . and who she has become in the leaving.
1st book I have read from this author. the 1st part of the book was great, I could relate to Rose's thoughts about looking for signs from god and making wrong decisions.
The story stayed interesting, but in the end I was left wondering " what was the point of this story "?
What a lovely novel! At once touching, fun, and heartbreaking, I was immediately swept up in this story, caring deeply for all of the characters. I was even sad for it to end. I highly recommend this book.
I looked forward to sitting down and reading this book every evening before bed. The characters were so well written that you actually felt like you knew them. It all comes together in the end in a neat red bow. Good reading!
St. Elizabeth's is a lovely old place in a small town in Kentucky that used to be the beautiful Hotel Louisa. In the 1960's it is a home for unwed mothers run by nuns. Life at St. Elizabeth's is not unpleaseant, but it is temporary. All the pregnant women who come there will go home within the year. Except for Rose, a beatiful, mysterious woman, who is neither unwed nor alone. She is simply pregnant and doesn't want her husband or her mother to know. She plans to give her baby up because she knows she cannot be the mother it needs.
But St Elizabeth's is near a healing spring, and when Rose's time draws near, she cannot go through with her plans, not all of them. And she cannot remain forever untouched by what she left behind and who she has become in the leaving.
We just read this one in book group - it's a lot like an Anne Tyler book. It's a slice of life story where the character study is more important than the plot. It's about a family that lives on an estate with a home for unwed mothers run by nuns.
I am new to Ann Patchett and I really enjoyed listening to this book. Characters you don't want to let go of, plot line that keeps you guessing, relationships that are intricate and interesting, and she really understands women.
The only thing I'll say about the narrator on this audio book is that one of the male characters is voiced as though he's Mexican...which isn't in the story at all. It seems as though she were simply trying to differentiate between the other voices, but when I pictured the dialogue on the page, it was easier for me to "see and hear him." We can't pick and choose our narrators, but this aspect of the audio book was less satisfying.
While still the same story, this book is divided into thee different sections-they really build on each other. An interesting, thought-provoking story about 'unwed' mothers, as they were called, back in the 1960's. A good book.