That said, I loved it. I adore this book for two reasons. The first is that it is beautifully written. The second is that Yates poignantly shows how an average American couple becomes discontented with their lives. Such writing is valuable as we seek solutions to make the world a better place. Disclaimer before I continue: I am not qualified to discuss this book well from a literary standpoint, so please remember that I'm just a reader with a reaction, which follows below.
April Wheeler did not receive Caddie Woodlawn's father's monologue about women and how they make the world a better place. Or, if she did receive some such counsel, she ignored it. She's living in the 1950's, a time when keeping house and raising children was, as I understand, heralded as a noble profession. As a housewife/stay-at-home mom, April essentially rejects housekeeping and child rearing, and oh by the way, she never wanted to do it in the first place. Her disdain with life turns around when she concocts a plan to go to work. She does this under the guise of giving her husband the opportunity to find out what it is he is really meant to do with his life. Life puts a kink in that plan, and things in the Wheeler house come unraveled. April thinks that getting away from the emptiness of her home will completely change her life. And when that dream fades, she is sitting in an even emptier hole. Implied in the book is that perhaps April had some mental instability that caused the emptiness. I'm not convinced that there was any instability at all. I think she just felt that her life held no meaning.
This story lurched my gut on many levels. This is a book that I'd love to discuss theme by theme. However, the empty housewife/mother theme is the one that screamed for my attention. As a housewife/stay-at-home mom who does joyfully embrace her role but sometimes misses working, I could somewhat understand April's struggle. Ultimately, I found her reaction so very, very tragic. I wondered just how many other women in 2009 reject what used to be an honored role in life. I pondered whether or not I'm imagining that rejection. And if there is no financial reason for the wife to be earning money, I asked myself this question: "What makes women think that working outside the home is less important than working in it?" I'd love hear your thoughts.