Sunday, May 31, 2020

Book Review: Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton (tragic romance)

Ethan Frome

by Edith Wharton 
(nee Edith Newbold Jones)

Ethan Frome is a tragic love story--boy wants girl; boy can't have girl because boy has another girl.

Ethan Frome is a mystery--why does a man choose social isolation?

Ethan Frome is about being trapped in  a living hell because you're too worried about doing right by everyone except yourself.
Narrator:  Ethan '"looks as if he was dead and in hell now!"' (p. 6)
Ethan is engaged in studies at Worcester technological college when he is called back home to Starkfield, New England--a remote farming community. His father is dead and Ethan must take responsibility for running the farm and the lumber mill. Due to the remoteness of the farm (and possibly grief), Ethan's mother's health begins to suffer. The weight of the farm, the lumber mill and his mother are too heavy for Ethan to carry alone so he asks his cousin Zenobia "Zeena" Pierce to move to the farm to nurse his mother.

After his mother dies, Ethan marries Zeena.
Ethan is told:  '"I don't know anybody round here's had more sickness than Zeena...I don't know what she'd 'a' done if she hadn't 'a' had you to look after her; and I used to say the same thing 'bout your mother. You've had an awful mean time, Ethan Frome."' (p. 142)
Zeena's poverty-stricken cousin Mattie Silver comes to Frome farm to serves as Zeena's unpaid aid. And Ethan 'had taken to the girl from the first day.' (p. 32) For him, Mattie's presence is like 'the lighting of a fire on a cold hearth.' (p. 33) and she looks 'like a window that has caught the sunset.' (p. 35) He is smitten.

Published in 1911, 1939, 1970
Published by Charles Scribner's Sons
Ethan Frome is a classic

Introducing Ethan...

Out on daily errands, an unnamed narrator is brought 'up sharp' (p. 3) by a local man--Ethan Frome--who had 'something bleak and unapproachable in his face'. (p. 3-4) Another local tells the narrator that Ethan has looked '"that way ever since he had his smash-up; that's twenty-four years ago come next February."' (p. 4) And that Ethan has '"been in Starkfield too many winters. Most of the smart ones get away."' (p. 6) The narrator wonders, 'how could any combination of obstacles have hindered the flight of a man like Ethan Frome?' (p. 9) And we must read on to solve the mystery.

Then and Now...

Ethan Frome was assigned reading in my junior high (middle school) Language Arts class.

When I first learned about Ethan Frome the solution to his problem was so clear to me. He should have been straight with his wife. He should have simply told her that he no longer loved her. Then he would have been free to have a happy life. Back then things were so clear to me. Things were either black or white. I'd yet to learn of life's many shades of gray. I'd yet to learn that the path to happiness isn't always straight or level. Sometimes you have to deal with bumps and curves.

What initially attracted me to Ethan Frome was his moral dilemma.

What lingers after this reading are questions for three women--Edith, Zeena and Mattie.

To Edith Wharton...

Edith, you've written that you were drawn to write Ethan Frome because 'the New England of fiction bore little--except a vague botanical and dialectical--resemblance to the harsh and beautiful land as I had seen it.' Yet after reading these articles Edith Wharton, A Writing Life by Robert Armitage, Edith Wharton:  A Biography, and Edith Wharton: American Writer about your life, I was struck by the similarities between you and Ethan. Both of your spouses suffered from ill health and were several years your senior--Ethan's seven and yours twelve. Yet, whereas Ethan elected to devote his life to caring for his wife, you divorced your husband. Your life, Edith, was full. You 'established workrooms for unemployed seamstresses, convalescent homes for tuberculosis sufferers, hostiles for refugees, and schools for children fleeing war-torn Belgium' (Edith Wharton:  A Biography). You 'published more than 50 books.' (Edith Wharton:  American Writer) You wrote short story collections, short novels, novels and non-fiction books. You received an honorary Doctorate of Letters from Yale University, a full membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and, in 1921, you were the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize. Contrarily, Ethan's life was a living hell. I wonder, Edith, if--in writing Ethan Frome--you were justifying your decision to leave your husband--if only in your own mind? Did you wish to make a case against a life of duty, against conforming to societal expectations?

'Because of their shorter length, novellas have less time to explore subplots and tend to focus on the main plot. Novellas generally have one main character and a handful of secondary characters. Because of length constraints, most of the characters development will be found on the protagonist.' -How to Write a Novella:  Step-by-Step Guide

I long to learn more about Zeena (Ethan's wife) and Mattie (his love interest).

To Zeena...

Zeena, what is it like for you to live out your days in a house, with a man, without love? Why do you stay on the Frome farm? Is it out of a sense of duty? Are you conforming to societal expectations? Do you still love Ethan? Did you ever love him? What hopes and dreams did you have for your life?

To Mattie...

Mattie, why did you allow yourself to fall in love with your cousin's husband? Did it just happen or did you see Ethan as a solution to your problems? Did you see him as someone who would take care of you? Did you see him as a way to escape poverty?
Zeena to Mattie:  '"--and now you've took from me the one I cared for most of all--"' (p. 127)

June on this blog... 

On June 7th, we'll kick the month off with a bang by reviewing the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Reproduction by Ian Williams. You think you've read novels. Well you haven't seen anything yet, Charlie.

I've been working on this list for a while. All I know about blogging wrapped up in a nice neat little bundle delivered to you on June 14th. Hopefully, you'll find it helpful.

I loved reading Crow Winter by Karen McBride and on June 21st I'll review it--I feel the pressure.

On June 28th, we'll end the month with a short story--Independence--to honour Canada Day (July 1st) and Independence Day (July 4th).

Are you following me?

Linked In

Listen to this...

I Value Canadian Stories--The Podcast
a collection of interviews with authors of books for children

I wrote this short story for you...

A Dream Within A Dream

In my dream, I stumbled down the hall heading for the...

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Discovery (short story/fantasy) by Leanne Dyck

CVOID 19. Corona virus. CVOID 19. Too early on March 30, my muse danced to the beat of this words. And this short story leaked out of my pen...

photo by ldyck


In a deep cave, they found the...being--prone on the floor, chains around its eight legs. They consulted translator after translator and were finally able to read the weathered sign that stood outside the cell. "Caution. Do not wake." 

Despite the beings eight legs and enormous puppy-dog eyes, it looked strangely humanoid and authorities began to think that interaction and perhaps some type of communication might be possible.

They sent the translator with a doctor. As the two approached, the being retreated in the only way it could--by shutting its eyelids. 

"We won't hurt you." The translator told it. "We're here to help." The words seemed to calm the being and they released it from the chains.

Aided by the translator, the doctor began to examine the being's throat, ears, e--.

"No! Don't! Please, don't shine the light into my left eye," was the translation.

But it was too late. Something had switched in the being's brain. And, no longer contained, it began to kill.


Let's Not Go Back by Cheryl Oreglia

12 Classic Novels Coronavirus Lockdown Would Have Absolutely Ruined by Stephen Carlick

Next Sunday Evening... 

Book Review 

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton was assigned reading in junior high (middle school). I read it again, just recently. What did I think? How has my impression of the book changed--has it changed?
I will reveal all next Sunday.

Spring 2020

This is...

Linked In

Spring 2019

still me.

Much thanks to the Mayne Island Quilters Association and Days for Girls for making the lovely and useful masks available free for all Mayne Islanders. 


I've been trying to find my next read. Or as I call it auditioning authors. I grabbed two books from my overloaded bookshelf and flipped to the first page. But...

Sunday, May 17, 2020

How-to write short stories (list) by Leanne Dyck

photo by ldyck

I have dyslexia. Learning to read was a challenge. But my parents were avid readers. Before I could read they read to me and it was like they were opening a locked door and offering me glimpses of amazing worlds. When I learned to read I felt like I'd been given the key to that door. I write short stories so everyone regardless of ability can enter the worlds I've created.

On this blog, by my some what  careful calculations, I've written and published approximately 100 short stories.

15 of my short stories have been published in magazines, anthologies and online (other than on this blog). I've also self-published one short story collection. For more information, please read my Publishing History page.

The following links will take you to some interesting places. Have fun.

Video:  Stephen King on the Craft of Short Story Writing

Articles: Why write short stories by Leanne Dyck

How to Write a Short Story That Captivates Your Reader by Jerry Jenkins

Writers, how do you end your story? by Leanne Dyck

What do editors do and why you should care? by Leanne Dyck

Why edit? by the Editor's Association of Canada

No MFA? Submit to these literary magazines by Leanne Dyck

Guest Post:  Room Magazine

Guest Post:  Submitting Manuscripts--an interview with Jami Macarty

Sending manuscripts to publishers--a workshop by Jami Macarty

Guest Post: Oak Tree Press' Acquisition Editor Sunny Frazier

Video:  How to Make Money Writing Short Fiction with Douglas Smith

And stuff to dream about...

Bryan Washington wins the 
Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize 
for his debut short story collection, Lot

Calgary writer Brenda Damen wins 
2020 CBC Short Story Prize

Read Short Stories...

Your Favourites:  a  free short story collection by Leanne Dyck

Free Short Story Collection:  the stories of my life by Leanne Dyck

The shortest short story

For sale:  Baby shoes, never worn --Ernest Hemingway

My attempts...

One sunny day a worm went for a wiggle. He met a robin.


Lonely, she visited twitter; he commented
They meet face-to-face
Now he never leaves her


He stepped off the curb.
Thinking quickly, she avoided hitting him.
Months later, they married.


He was born in the dark. He came to the light. He dwelled among the living. He died forgotten.


Starving, she searched the cupboards. All she found was an ax. So she chopped off her toe and ate it. She didn't stop until she was full--gone.

Next Sunday evening...

May 24th
short story

inspired by cvoid 19
because sometimes in order to deal with a situation
 I have to write about it.

Are you following me?

Linked In

New Releases by Mayne Island authors...

Everyone on Mayne Island heard the pens clicking and computer keyboards tapping and we thought, maybe, hopefully... 

Sunday, May 10, 2020

From Mom (2 short stories) by Leanne Dyck

photo by a nurse (I'm guessing)

'Dad, Mom and me (I'm five days old)'

Before You

We were on a Sunday drive, weaving the car through old back roads. Clouds of dust rose around us. So, even though it was hot, we couldn't roll down the windows. Your brothers were in the backseat, jockeying for space. Your dad behind the steering wheel. And me in the passenger seat--five months pregnant with you. We called you "the baby" but we'd picked names. Patrick for a boy. Leanne for a girl. 

The front tires hit a bump, we caught air and landed hard.

Cheering from the backseat. 

But I put a hand on my belly. "Jim, be careful of Leanne." I just said your name, just like that. Like I knew I was carrying you.

And a few months later, when the weather turned cold, the air crisp, you arrived--our baby daughter Leanne.

When Mom told me this story I thought she was magical--like she'd conjured me.

photo by Dad

Mom (baby soft post-cancer hair) and me (a perm) (I'm in my early 20s in this picture)
Mom knit the sweater I'm wearing.

After Me

Healing my life after my mom's death has been a long, slow process. This is a short story about something that did help.

A year after her death, I had a dream. Mom and I were doing the dishes. She washed and I dried. She scooped her hand into the sink, blew and covered me with bubbles.

"Hey." I laughed.

"That's better." She reached into her pocket and pulled out a folded note. "Read this when it's time for you to wake up."

A mother's worries are many,
joys are far too few,
one of my greatest joys is to see you happy,
so smile, darn you,
Your Mother

photo by ldyck


Love You Forever by Robert Munsch

One of my favourite picture books. As an Early Childhood Educator, I remember many happy hours reading this book to the children in my care.

A Memoir of Miracle Cures and other Disasters
by Rachel Matlow

I've just heard about this book, but it looks good.

An inspiring and uplifting video.

For those of us who find this day a little difficult.

Next Sunday evening

May 17th

How-to write short stories 

a collection of articles on how-to write short stories written by me and other authors--like Stephen King. 

Are you following me?

Linked In

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Book Review: Oh, My Darling by Shaena Lambert (short story collection)

Relationships come in all shapes and sizes in Shaena Lambert's ten story collection.

All but three of the stories in Oh, My Darling are set in BC. As a proud Gulf Islander, I was delighted to discover that The Wind--a story with a heart-breaking conclusion--is set on Galiano Island. The other locations are Germany, the United Kingdom and Greece.

Artists and activists and senior citizens and... the stories are peopled with a diverse cast of characters. The most unique--a cancerous lump. Oh, My Darling--the story that gives the collection its name--is a call to action. The message:  you can beat cancer, you can survive, but you need to have courage, you need to be strong. You need to use all your resources including the power of your imagination.

The collection ends on a high with the story of a married couple vacationing in Delphi. Once again I was impressed with author Shaena Lambert's creativity. This time in how she formatted the story. First focusing on the wife, then the husband, then the wife again and so on. The couple have travelled to Delphi to celebrate the wife's fiftieth birthday. A milestone... A time to take stock of the past and make plans for the future. Maya, the wife, racks her brain attempting to come up with the perfect question to ask the oracle in the temple on top of the mountain. I love the last lines of this story:  'And they did. Down the hill, together.' (p. 197)

Oh, My Darling there is much to love in this clever collection.

Published by HarperCollins Publishers
Published in 2013

Are you following me?

Linked In

photo by ldyck

What makes me smile...

Usually, in order to attend a literary event I have to hop on a ferry and spend the night in Vancouver. But things have changed...