How sad and tragic can one book be? So much so that you think about it for days and days.
This is also a member of the “finish it and then pick it up again and start at the beginning” book group. It is like the pain that feels good.
Tragic Ethan Frome; he marries his cousin Zeena just because she is there. I did not like Zeena. She was much too whiny and a dead-weight on the marriage. Zeena eventually developed a strong case of hypochondria, and needed the help of an aide to get along day-to-day. What was interesting was how she made this switch to dependency so rapidly after marrying Ethan. This is where Mattie, Zeena's cousin, comes in. Mattie comes to live with Ethan and Zeena to help out around the house.
Mattie is a breath of fresh air in Ethan’s life. She is young, innocent and attractive, and of course, very much off limits. She has a complicated past and not a lot of options. Slowly Ethan becomes infatuated and then in love with her.
Wharton beautifully lets you live their love and difficult decisions. I am not sure if Ethan is really as trapped as he feels himself to be. Wharton explores this through the story and allows each to decide. Was the love of Ethan and Mattie doomed or were there other options there? The story is dark and cold, just like the winter in the Massachusetts town where they live.
The ending is very Twilight Zonish. The most impossible and long-lasting punishment I have ever read.