Sunday, December 1, 2013

A White Room by Stephanie Carroll

A White RoomA loveless marriage can drive a woman insane.

This is a story about that, about lack of communication, marrying in haste, loneliness, guilt, ambitions that go nowhere, and how lack of affection and conversation can affect one's mental state.

And it's all in a really unique historical setting: a creepy house in 1901 Missouri.

The tale is told in first person and it completely worked for this novel. I never felt too confined. We knew what the heroine knew and no more and that added to the suspense of the tale. HUGE applause to the author for mastering this.

Emeline wants to be a nurse, but fate doesn't cooperate. Instead, she finds herself married to a man who refuses to speak to her, her ambitions unfulfilled, in a town full of the snottiest women. Actually, some of the women are nice, the "lower" class. But I must say dealing with these awful society ladies would drive me up a wall too. Emeline begins to slowly lose it. At first, I honestly thought the house may be haunted. It was that creepy. Again, this is something the author did very well. If she intended us to be not quite sure of the heroine's mental state, she did a perfect job.

Something else really cool about this book is how it shows us the beginnings of a crappy healthcare system and doctors who refuse the poor. It's a bit like nowadays, what with doctors and hospitals refusing to treat those without insurance and those without insurance lying at home in pain, suffering, rather than go into deep credit card debt. Well, they didn't have credit cards back then and the poor and destitute could not afford the doctor. And when laws were created that prevented midwives and such from helping made a whole 'nother problem.

This book tackles on so many things...but it really impacted me on this one issue: some of us just really need a purpose beyond home and hearth. I totally got this and related to the heroine so well. At times I felt I was reading my own thoughts. I get it. Emeline isn't happy just doing laundry and cooking; she wants to do something more, to make an impact, to have a reason to wake in the morning. Without's not a pretty picture.

And she finds that something more, in the form of "playing" doctor and helping the poor and afflicted whom the doctors refuse to aid. I really like this woman. Was she perfect? No. Did she do some "bad" things? Yes. But I liked her regardless. Another point for the author. It's important that even while we may not agree with everything a heroine does, we must understand her or be able to see it from her POV. Very few authors pull this off so well.

This novel was very, very thought evoking. The guilt theme, the "can doing something wrong be right?" issue had me nodding my head and musing on many issues the book brought to mind. I'm hesitant to elaborate further as I don't wish to ruin anything for anyone. I will say however, that it put me through a gauntlet of emotions. Confusion, sympathy, laughter (the man with flatulence! OMG), anger, dismay, sadness, and understanding.

I really enjoyed this story and I'll be watching for more from this author. I love how unique this book is and how very serious and impacting. No fluff here, but a lot of food for thought. This is a story that will stay with me for a long time. The only thing stopping me from giving it a five is 1. while I loved the "haunted" house, around 30% I'd had enough of it and wanted the story to get a move on, and 2. the ending was just too abrupt considering just how many problems needed resolving.

I received a digital galley of this through Edelweiss or Netgalley, I can't remember which, and apparently was too late with my review to post it on either site. My bad. Life just gets in the way sometimes. But thank you for the opportunity to read this.

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