A Good Woman
Plainview Press (2008)
Reviewed by for Reader Views (04/08)
In “A Good Woman” Dorothy Weil has created and developed a masterful story. Her characters are so genuine and believable that the book takes on the flavor of autobiography rather than a novel. Weil’s protagonist, Mary Lou Friedman, tells her own story in this third person narrative. Weil uses both dialog and flashbacks to carry the plot to a suspenseful climax.
Mary Lou reminisces about incidents in her eighty-five years of life, from her early childhood, prior to World War I, through to the turn of the century, Mary Lou shares tales of growing up on a farm in Ohio, the loss of her mother, and eloping against her father’s will before graduating from high school. The story centers on her home in Cincinnati, her husband, Don, and parental relationships with her four children, Frederick, Helen, Elaine, Sylvia and her grandson, Billy.
Dorothy Weil has amazing insight into child development, family relationships, harbored emotional hurts, misunderstandings, and personality differences among siblings. She is able to convey the impact these pressures have on our routine decisions and the reactions these produce in our daily lives and relationships.
I especially enjoyed Mary Lou’s banter as she compared her oldest daughter Helen’s conservative religious dedication to service with that of her youngest daughter Sylvia’s free spirited wacky ego centric lifestyle.
As Don’s diabetes condition worsened he became depressed and more difficult for Mary Lou to care for. Taunted and threatened by two teenage hoodlums from the neighborhood, Mary Lou felt alone and helpless to protect herself, her home, and her husband. In an effort for self protection Mary Lou purchased a gun.
Faced with her husband Don’s terminal illness, upkeep and repairs on an eighty year old house, and a fragmented family Mary Lou came to grips with the cost of independence as her own health began to take its toll. Tragedy followed.
I found the story both nostalgic and haunting as I identified with Mary Lou. I recognized the almost undetected deterioration of a community, the fragmentation of a family separated by geography, memories of World War II, the Korean Conflict, the Viet Nam War, and the confrontations going on the world today.
Few adult children have a realistic glimpse into the 24/7 pressures facing their aging parents. “A Good Woman” is an important story for readers of every generation. A combination of superb writing, genuine characters, and a haunting plot insure the success of Dorothy Weil's latest novel.