The House of Eve
REESE’S FEBRUARY 2023 BOOK CLUB PICK
AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
“Amazing…These two women’s lives intersect in the most wonderful and unlikely of ways. I was completely surprised by the ending of this beautifully told and written book.” —Reese Witherspoon
“A triumph of historical fiction” (The Washington Post) set in 1950s Philadelphia and Washington, DC, that explores what it means to be a woman and a mother, and how much one is willing to sacrifice to achieve her greatest goal.
1950s Philadelphia: fifteen-year-old Ruby Pearsall is on track to becoming the first in her family to attend college, in spite of having a mother more interested in keeping a man than raising a daughter. But a taboo love affair threatens to pull her back down into the poverty and desperation that has been passed on to her like a birthright.
Eleanor Quarles arrives in Washington, DC, with ambition and secrets. When she meets the handsome William Pride at Howard University, they fall madly in love. But William hails from one of DC’s elite wealthy Black families, and his parents don’t let just anyone into their fold. Eleanor hopes that a baby will make her finally feel at home in William’s family and grant her the life she’s been searching for. But having a baby—and fitting in—is easier said than done.
With their stories colliding in the most unexpected of ways, Ruby and Eleanor will both make decisions that shape the trajectory of their lives.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
This captivating historical romance set in the ’40s and ’50s doesn’t shy away from thorny questions of race and class. Ruby is a young Black woman on track to be the first in her family to go to college—despite her unsupportive mother and mom’s lecherous boyfriend. Meanwhile, working-class Eleanor feels out of place at a prestigious historically Black university, where she embarks on a relationship with doctor-to-be William. Sadeqa Johnson artfully unfolds her heroines’ parallel stories, giving us a window into the emotional turmoil they face as they navigate their education and romantic lives. Johnson also paints a vivid portrait of Black community life in this era. If you love an underdog or coming-of-age story, The House of Eve is for you.
Johnson's suspenseful and thought-provoking latest (after The Yellow Wife) follows two young Black women as they separately navigate mid-20th century America. In the fall of 1948, Ruby is a high school junior in Philadelphia who attends Saturday enrichment classes in hopes of winning a college scholarship and becoming an ophthalmologist. Eleanor, from a Cleveland suburb, is a sophomore at Howard University who is surprised by the campus's social hierarchy, which is based on wealth and skin color. The lives of both women change when they find love: Ruby with the sweet, bright son of her Jewish landlord; and Eleanor with a medical student who belongs to an upper-class Black family. Unexpected pregnancies threaten the plans and dreams of both women, and heighten the tensions caused by the gulfs between them and their lovers' families. Johnson methodically develops the women's worlds and draws subtle hints at the similarities in their experiences, and after their pregnancies, they're brought together in a bittersweet denouement. This well-crafted work is bound to provoke discussion among readers about the conflicts women face regarding pregnancy.