Winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award
"Unqualified praise goes to this rarity: an extraordinary novel about ordinary people." —Chicago Tribune
The year is 1940, and Rhoda Taber is pregnant with her first child. Satisfied with her comfortable house in a New Jersey suburb and her reliable husband, Leonard, she expects that her life will be predictable and secure. Surprised by an untimely death, an unexpected illness, and the contrary natures of her two daughters, Rhoda finds that fate undermines her sense of entitlement and security. Shrewd, wry, and sometimes bitter, Rhoda reveals herself to be a wonderfully flawed and achingly real woman caught up in the unexpectedness of her own life.
Originally published in 1980, National Book Award finalist Silber's first novel gives taut insight into the the possibilities of introspection for a woman of the Greatest Generation. Unsentimental Rhoda Taber lives in suburban New Jersey with her practical pharmacist-husband Leonard and, eventually, their two vastly different daughters, Suzanne and Claire. Silber (Ideas of Heaven) follows Rhoda from Suzanne's birth, in 1940, to late middle age, episodically exploring Rhoda's "unremitting force of character" and sometimes "startling hardness." Rhoda and Leonard socialize, do some low-level schmoozing, and mundanely move along through the '40s, until Leonard dies of heart attack at 42. As Rhoda struggles to reconfigure the Taber household, words, sometimes shouted, are frequently whispered. Mostly, though, the words and the feelings behind them, both good and bad, are left unsaid. That Rhoda comes, more and more, to articulate them for herself is what gives this book its particular shape, and imparts its palpable sense of growth.