Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton


Audiobook.  The beauty of the language in this book is limited to creating a stark and grim world very effectively; that is to say, beauty was rarely on display. 

The story is that of a man whose possibilities in improving his life were limited by troubles of his family when he was young.  His mother's ill health resulted in him marrying the woman who came to help him out of gratitude.  She soon became a burden with her own ill health and when Mattie, a young relative of hers came to help out, Mattie was a breath of fresh air to Ethan.  Zeena, Ethan's wife, wants a real servant, and has thrown Mattie, who has no prospects for making a living, out of the house.  When Ethan is on the way to take Mattie to the train, they make a detour and come to the decision they should run the sleigh into a tree rather than be parted.  But the plan doesn't quite work, they both live, but are disabled.  The interesting twist is that Zeena becomes the caretaker to the carping Mattie and Ethan is a miserable witness to it all.

I was having trouble with the motivations — why Ethan would let Zeena put her relative out of the house and why Zeena turned from ruthless mean woman to meek caretaker.  It's all about guilt.

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