Canterbury Bells

Canterbury Bells
Canterbury Bells represent Gratitude in the Language of Flowers

Monday, January 5, 2015

 Fireproof Home for the Bride

Did you ever pick a book strictly on an appealing title drawing you in or arousing your curiosity?  Often, not the best way leading to disappointment.  This was not the case with A Fireproof Home for the Bride by Amy Scheibe.  Although the meaning of the title was not revealed until nearly the end of the story, it was good reading getting there as Emmeline Nelson comes of age in the 1950’s in northern rural Minnesota.

Not only were the winters cold in Minnesota but so was Emmy’s home with a strict Lutheran up-bringing—strict parents, strict milking schedules and strict morals. At
age twelve Emmy’s best friend is college-age Ambrose,  who teaches her to shoot her deceased grandfather’s rifle.  The long-awaited morning of her first deer hunt with Ambrose is filled with anticipation.  Emmy has prepared herself since age eight by building strong arms performing her chores-- carrying milk buckets and tossing hay bales onto flatbeds.  Now, killing a deer with her first shot, Emmy impresses Ambrose, but upon seeing the dead animal, she resolves to never shoot again and the reality of the long-anticipated moment passing so instantly fills her with regret. 
“Is that it?” she asks?

This opening scene is symbolic of the entire story as so much of what is supposedly something to look forward to fall shorts of her expectations. She tries to follow the path her parents have ordained, yet there is a constant growing awareness that the life and expectations they chose are not right for her.  Betrothed to Ambrose by all the parents’ consent at age eighteen, (he is now twenty-four) she struggles with feelings of disdain when she realizes the boy she admired for years is now an older man with strong arrogant opinions, which often grate like fingernails on a blackboard to her.  And when she becomes attracted to Bobby, a boy her own age, she longs for the freedom to be a normal teen-ager, going to dances and riding in fast cars.  And Bobby’s large Catholic family is appealing to her—warm, affectionate and loving -- the opposite of everything in  Emmy’s home. 

Emmy struggles with her desire to please her family, yet is lured to a different way of life. She makes scary bold choices, including leaving home and a job—unheard of.  Her work at the local newspaper leads to an awareness of many evils of society in her sheltered community, including the KKK , corrupt politics and family secrets that have been buried for years. 

Emmy is a brave heroine whose story many women will be able to relate to if they grew up in the 50’s and 60’s. It also has the charm of details of the era—the music, the fashions, the trends of the day.  For the younger female readers who may take their independence today for granted, it is a vivid account of women’s struggle for a voice in that period between WWII and turbulent 60’s.

The Minnesota landscape is beautifully portrayed and the weather itself becomes a factor in the story’s ebb and flow.  In spite of revealing many sordid events in American history, it is what I would call a gentle read.  One review describes it:  The setting is Kent Haruf, the heroine is pure Annie Proulx.

One other thing I liked about the book (which is about as silly as buying it for the title) is that it has interesting chapter titles—such as,  A Delicate Web Unwoven, The Fragility of Stars, A Cold Day Gone Hot. .  The titles lend a touch of mystery—what does it mean?  I’m thinking it’s also possibly because it takes me back to the early days of first discovering the joy of reading with The Bobbsey Twins, Boxcar Children and Nancy Drew.

If this review has drawn you in, I’m sorry to say the book will not be available for distribution until March 2015, but in the meantime, you might check out two other books it was reminiscent of:  Wingshooters by Revyor (blog review 10/25/13) and Ordinary Grace by William Kent Kreuger. (blog review on 6/14/13).

In summary, the title, A Fireproof Home for the Bride, enticed me and the story delivered.