Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Review: an open door by Anne Leigh Parrish

We're all familiar with the image of Rosie the Riveter, the strong and capable woman who stepped in when American men went off to fight in WWII. But what happened to all the Rosies out there once the war was over and the men came back, went back to school, and rejoined the work force? Very few people address women's lost freedoms of the late 1940s and 1950s. In Anne Leigh Parrish's newest novel, an open door (lower case intentional), her main character is directly affected by this unfortunate and unfair regression and by the expectation that women settle back into the world they inhabited before the war.

Edith works as a secretary at the UN in New York and lives with her estranged husband's unconventional aunt. She has left Walter and endures his frequent letters imploring her to return to Cambridge, where he is in law school, and to take back up the mantle of a proper (and appropriate) wife. Her life in New York is more fulfilling than her life in Cambridge but she is still unsatisfied. After an alcohol-fueled one night stand with the son of a friend of Aunt Margaret's, Edith abruptly decides to return home to Walter, going back to a stultifying existence of cocktail parties, intellectual stagnation, and ignoring her husband's infidelities.

Edith had to abandon her own plans to pursue a doctorate in order to conform to Walter's and society's idea of the perfect post-war wife. She grew up with the message that girls and women were lesser, her father being borderline abusive to his wife and daughter. Despite the examples all around her, she cannot quite force herself to completely conform to the expectations of the times. The novel is character driven and both funny and sad. It's sad for the way in which women were so trapped and forced to endure a life and marriage that wasn't in any way fulfilling. "They married. The first time they had sex they fell off the bed, which Edith found hilarious, and Walter found mortifying. The sex was terrible, and Edith told herself it would get better with practice. It didn't." (p. 31) But there is humor in there too.

Pieces of Edith's past and her long relationship with Walter are woven into the present of the narrative, showing the reader just who Edith is, why she reacts the way she does, and how she'll find her way to happiness and selfhood in a time and society that didn't present any easy alternatives to a stifling life for women. Edith is thoughtful and intelligent and while she will acquiesce for a time, she won't stay a second class citizen forever. The door to a new life may be a small and seemingly insignificant but it is open and she'll find a way to walk through it. There is a quiet tone to the story and there is no big climactic scene driving the plot but the novel is beautifully written and Edith is a complex, flawed, interesting character. I'll always search out everything Anne Leigh Parrish writes.

For more information about Anne Leigh Parrish and the book, check our her author site, like her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, look at the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, look at the reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book, and purchase here.

Thanks to Lisa from TLC Book Tours and publisher Unsolicited Press for sending me a copy of this book to review.

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