Vinegar Hill

Vinegar Hill

Book - 1994
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Baker & Taylor
Ellen Grier returns with her husband and children to their midwestern Catholic hometown to live with her narrow-minded in-laws, coping with the family's eccentricity and confronting a hidden secret festering in her husband's past

Blackwell North Amer
In her remarkable debut novel, Vinegar Hill, Manette Ansay writes with startling authority and quiet elegance of one woman's gradual realization that in order to reenvision her life she must break all the rules. It is 1972 and Ellen Grier finds herself back in the Midwestern hometown she thought she had escaped for good. Worse yet, she and her family have had to move in with her in-laws: narrow-minded, eccentric people who are as tough as the farm lives they have endured. Devout Catholics, they inhabit a world "as rigid, as precise as a church," and Ellen struggles to live by their motto: "A place for everything; everything in its place."
But there is no place for Ellen - fresh, funny, bright with passion - in a house filled with the dust of routine and the ritual of prayer, the lingering bitterness of her in-laws' loveless marriage. She tries to be the model woman everyone expects her to be - teaching at the Catholic school, coaxing her traveling-salesman husband through his increasingly irrational moods, caring for his aging parents - but Ellen's hopes for her family's future collide with life in this bizarre household, and she worries over her wryly observant adolescent daughter and her timid young son. Encouraged by her friend Barb, a woman ostracized for being "modern" and "wild," Ellen begins to consider her own desires and dreams as well.
Surrounded by the family's obsession with an exacting, angry God and the disquieting ghosts of the past, Ellen searches for a way to satisfy the demands of this rural community and its traditions until, at last, she discovers the family's darkest secret, one that frees her and changes her life forever.
Vinegar Hill is a celebration of choice and self-determination, the bittersweet landscape of one woman's spiritual triumph.

Baker
& Taylor

Ellen Grier returns with her husband and children to their midwestern Catholic hometown to live with her narrow-minded in-laws, coping with the family's eccentricity and confronting a hidden secret festering in her husband's past. A first novel. Tour.

Publisher: New York : Viking, 1994
ISBN: 9780670852536
0670852538
Characteristics: viii, 240 p. ; 22 cm

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GLNovak
Mar 06, 2014

Vinegar Hill is a very apt name for this story. Maybe Vitriol Hill might be even better. Ellen Grier and her two children exist in an environment of hate, bitterness, violence with little to keep them sane. Set in the 1970's against a backdrop of the strict teachings of the Catholic Church of the time, this story is definitely a grind. Ellen's husband has lost his job and their only hope is to move in with his parents. She gamely deals with the psyche-destroying situation but as her husband gets more distant and unreachable, we know that she has to take action or let them all be drowned in the vinegar. I guess it is well-written as I kept wanting to shake someone, to give someone a smack and say 'Snap out of it!" Thankfully, it is not a long book so the bad taste in your mouth only lasts a little while.

sharonb122 Sep 19, 2013

This is the frist book I have read by this author. This family is so dysfunctional, I often wanted to scream--which shows how well this was written because it seemed so real. In fact I have experienced families similar. Ansay not only tackles that subject but also women's identity. This was written in 1994, yet even today these issues are still present in our society (not to mention our world). She also brings in the negative influence of the Church, particularly the Roman Catholic, but others are at fault as well, in holding women back and down. My own sense of right wanted the book to also end with the husband becoming enlightened. Loved this book.

frosty73 Jul 17, 2011

This book is "stark" and "troubling" but I failed to find it "ultimately triumphant." I kept reading, waiting for it the characters to have some kind of epiphany that would make the book worthwhile--- but it never came.

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