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Ellen Baker

Autor(a) de Keeping the House

3 Works 464 Membros 41 Críticas 2 Favorited

About the Author

Image credit: © JoAnne Jardine

Obras por Ellen Baker

Keeping the House (2007) 367 exemplares
I Gave My Heart to Know This (2011) 74 exemplares


Conhecimento Comum



The Hidden Life of Cecily Larson by Ellen Baker is a highly recommended family drama concerning families, adoption, and ancestry. The narrative begins in 1924 and ends with a climatic conclusion in 2015.

At age four Cecily Larson is dropped off at an orphanage by her mother in 1924. Her mother promises to return within a year, but she doesn't which allows the orphanage to put Cecily up for adoption. When she is seven she is sold to a traveling circus to be trained as a trick bareback rider. She is renamed Jacqueline DuMonde and billed as the “little sister” to the star bareback rider Isabelle DuMonde.This life becomes her home and she eventually falls in love with a roustabout named Lucky.

In 2015, ninety-four-year-old Cecily is living in Minnesota by her daughter Liz, granddaughter Molly and great grandson Caden. Cecily is hospitalized after she fell and broke her hip. Cecily realizes that secrets she has been keeping need to be shared soon. Liz is keeping her own secret from everyone, as well as the fact that she and Molly tricked Cecily into taking DNA test in the hospital for Caden's biology project on DNA testing. At the same time in 2015 in Florida and North Carolina another mother, Clarissa, and her adult daughters, Kate and Lana, are wondering about their heritage and take a DNA test.

The novel is presented in three parts. The first part of the novel is very satisfying and compelling as it follows Cecily in the circus, later in 1946, and her family in 2015. Part two introduces Lucky and the other mother and daughters plot. It is this addition to the story where I lost much of my captivation with the The Hidden Life of Cecily Larson. Certainly most readers will sort out all the new characters, but it is the dueling story lines that became unwieldy making the narrative feel muddled in the middle of the novel. Some of the sub-plots could have been left out and the introduction of the second family could have been smoother.

The gem remains the chapters set in Cecily's past and everything that she experienced.

Obviously, readers will know something is going to tie all these people together. It is clear Cecily's hidden secrets will be revealed and readers will anticipate that the DNA tests will tell all. It is this one fact that will help many readers jump the hurdle once the secondary cast is introduced and all the new characters are sorted out. In the end story lines are tied up neatly and quickly. Thanks to Mariner Books for providing me with an advance reader's copy via Edelweiss. My review is voluntary and expresses my honest opinion.
… (mais)
SheTreadsSoftly | 1 outra crítica | Feb 3, 2024 |
I did win a copy of this book, but it in no way impacts my review, other than there is a written one ... as I usually favor stars only. Thank you, Mariner Books for letting me read free.

I loved the character development of the book. Each character was a believable full-fledged human being, with human actions, flaws and emotions. The characters each reflected beauty and warts which real-life people have, not purely good or evil that many book characters represent. These human aspects created an engaging, complex, and emotional relationship between the characters in the book, and me the reader. When a book can take you on such an emotional journey that plays out in your head when away from the book, then you have found yourself a great read!

4.5 stars
… (mais)
Deb_Rouse | 1 outra crítica | Jan 19, 2024 |
I just read that Baker will have another book out in 2024---great news! She is quite a writer and this story was so involved with overlapping issues among the many characters.
nyiper | 5 outras críticas | Apr 12, 2023 |
When a young bride moves to a small Wisconsin town in the 1950s, she becomes obsessed with the vacant mansion that once belonged to the town's most prominent family.

Baker uses the character's fascination with the house to tell the story of its inhabitants from 1897, when another young bride arrived on the scene, moving through the generations as they grow up and deal with two world wars, the family's changing fortunes, and the restrictive view of women prevalent in the era.

Using quotes pulled from actual women's magazines, cookbooks, and marriage-advice manuals of the era, Baker paints a quaint and almost laughable picture of the advice being peddled to 50's women; yet a careful reading has to bring up the question of whether all that much has changed. Yes, women have made advances in legal equality and wage equality (sometimes in a two steps forward, one step backward pattern), but many still look outside themselves for approval or direction. Is today's young woman, struggling to advance her career, nurture her personal relationships, and rear her children in the effortless way presented by the media really any better off than the 1950s housewife who was instructed to always and only put her husband's wishes first? Is wanting a career but being told you can't have one any more stressful than being told you must have a career when you would prefer to take the Mommy Track?

Most of Baker's female characters manage to find a balance (though that balance is not the same for all of them, nor does it arrive at the same point in each one's life). Meanwhile, most of the men in the book seem to have a bit of difficulty keeping it in their pants. There's plenty of fence-jumping, unwise hookups, and rash decisions to complicate the already-Byzantine relationships set out over half a century.

It's an interesting read for all of that, even if this reader particularly wanted to smack a couple of the male characters upside the head, and occasionally became a bit impatient at the number of love-at-first-sight romances folded into the book's 500+ pages. (Hint: Some of them turn out better than others.)
… (mais)
LyndaInOregon | 32 outras críticas | Sep 2, 2022 |



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