is reading The Dutch House by Ann Patchett for October Book Club.
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett is told through Danny. He and his sister Maeve are devastated when their mother one day leaves the house and doesn't return. Ten-year-old Maeve is left in charge of her young brother. The two become very close and lean on each other over the years. And like the Cinderella story, their father remarries a woman with two children who is only interested in his mansion, “The Dutch House," and his money. The stepmother despises her stepchildren. After their father dies, the stepmother inherits everything and leaves them with nothing. When Maeve become critically ill, her long lost mother shows up at the hospital. Maeve wants dearly to have her mother in her life and the relationship she has always dreamed. Her brother is not as forgiving and thinks,
"There is no story of the prodigal mother. The rich man didn't call for a banquet.to celebrate the return of his erstwhile wife. The sons, having stuck it out for all those years at home, do not hang garlands on the doorways, kill the sheep, bring forth the wine. When she left them she killed them all, each in his own way, and now, decades later, they didn't want her back. they hurried down the road to lock the gate, the father and the sons together, the wind whipping at their coats. A friend had ripped them off. They knew she was coming and the gate must be locked."
Their mother didn't feel she was needed, they had servants and a cook that performed her motherly duties. She believes her children would be fine without her growing up in the Dutch House with their father. There are others in the world that needed her help. She leaves for India to the care for the poor in India, returns to the United States and to her hometown. She lives in the same city as her children for10 or so years without contacting them and only does when Maeve becomes ill.
I felt the weakest part of the novel while noble is the reason for the mother abandoning her children. This is how she explains it to them. "Why India?" I had meant to sit through the conversation in silence but on this point my curiosity got the better of me...."I read an article in a magazine about Mother Teresa, how she asked the sisters to send her to Calcutta to help the destitutes. I can't remember what magazine it was now. Something you father subscribed to."
I enjoyed the descriptions and the powerful pull of the Dutch House, which may actually be the main character of the novel. Patchett made this house come alive.
Don't miss this great video from Word on Words, NPT, Season 5