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There Was an Old Woman

by Hallie Ephron

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16820116,445 (3.62)6
A novel of psychological suspense, in which a young woman returns to the quirky Bronx riverfront neighborhood where she grew up, only to find that her mother's house has become a hoarder's nest. As Evie digs into the events of the past few months, a bigger, more sinister story begins to unfold.



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Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
A predictable yarn that nevertheless kept me interested until the end. Nan McNamara is the narrator.
3 stars. ( )
  stephanie_M | Apr 30, 2020 |
I picked this off the shelf at the library because I liked the title. Imagine my surprise when an old woman featured in one of the lead roles. The secret to invisibility is to be a middle-aged woman; that’s when it starts, by the time you’re over 50 almost no one ever notices you. Mina, the woman in the story, certainly knows this. I liked her a lot and felt a great sympathy for how people treated her, something I’m careful about when dealing with my own aging parents. Despite their frailty, memory lapses or illness, most elderly people are still fully-functioning adults. Treating them like children does them a huge disservice and many of them get run roughshod because they lack the energy for confrontation.

Anyway, the writing was fluid and occasionally insightfully funny like when Mina is touring a retirement community (against her wishes) with her nephew and is feeling pretty down about the general decrepitude of the people so far when she turns a corner and finds that it isn’t “all shuffle and nap”. The underlying plot though, is easy to spot. Clearly someone or a team of someones wants people out of their homes so that the valuable real estate can be had on the cheap and turned into big profits. The question is who is dirty dealing. Again, it’s not too hard to spot the villain if you’re used to books with red herrings and people who are too good to be true. Enjoyable though and I’ll read more of Hallie Ephron if I can find more. ( )
  Bookmarque | Aug 3, 2017 |
The story is set in a section of the Bronx full of history as an aging neighborhood is being overtaken by a company intent on demolishing its homes.

When Sandra Ferrante is hospitalized, her daughter Evie comes home to clean up her mother's home, only to be confronted by a mess beyond her wildest dreams. In addition to the alcoholism that is killing her mother, it now appears that Sandra Ferrante has become a hoarder. Evie reacquaints herself with her mother's neighbors, especially Mina Yetner, whose nephew is encouraging her to move to a nursing home. There are a lot of secrets in this small neighborhood and Evie is thrust into the middle of them as tries to determine who she can trust.

Although there is suspense to this story, it centers more around the future of the neighborhood. "There Was An Old Woman" is not the creepy, scary story I imagined, nor is it the terrifying web of deception and madness the back cover advertises. These two negetives would have generally made me take this with a grain of salt...not my usual type of book. However I couldn't stop reading it. I enjoyed Ephron's writing, which was easily readable, and only wish that some of her plots - especially the subplot centering around an historic event that Mina witnessed were more developed.

Don't let the fact that it's not the usual type of suspense put you off reading this. ( )
  Carol420 | May 31, 2016 |
Good book. Although I knew from the start who some (not all) of the baddies were, I was in suspense about how many lives would be destroyed before they were discovered. The characters were mostly well developed and I rooted for Mina; I really wanted her to be a survivor. ( )
  scot2 | Jun 22, 2015 |
(Abandoned; not rated)

Two characters, an old woman named Mina and her neighbor's daughter, Evie, are about to have tea. The young woman fetches fragile heirloom china teacups from a kitchen cabinet (not from a china cabinet in the dining room): the tea and the cups are stored in the same place. At Mina's direction, she puts a tea bag in each cup, and the old woman pours boiling water into them. Then Mina says the tea needs to steep and accompanies Evie into the living room to show her the marble fireplace and the memorabilia on display.

They talk much too long for the tea to steep in small porcelain cups; and why isn't an elderly woman with fancy china cups and a sculpted marble and mahogany decor using a teapot just for the sake of it?

While they are still talking in the living room, the doorbell sounds (front? back?), followed by a sharp knock, and Mina "scuttled into the living room" (page 43) to escape her nephew. When did she leave the room? Where was she? In this detailed account of every move and practically every heartbeat, there's no mention of her departing from the spot in front of the fireplace, and certainly not returning to the kitchen. She's going to the living room while still in the living room.

The nephew finds her in the living room, and while they talk Mina hears Evie washing up the china teacups in the kitchen ("Mina heard water running in the kitchen and the tink of bone china"--which shouldn't be making a tink unless the pieces are striking one another) even though they have not yet gone back and drunk their tea.

This author is not paying attention. Relentlessly and often irrelevantly or superfluously descriptive, she nevertheless fails to track her characters' positions and has one of them hurrying into a room she has not left.

This was the third strike.

The first was requiring the reader to plow through immense quantities of descriptive detail that serves no apparent point.

The second was a flat-out factual error committed while showing off. On page 39 we read:

Evie got up and walked through, pausing to touch one of the fluted columns mounted on a half wall separating the dining room from the living room. A memory flickered. Before the fire, her parents' house had had columns separating the rooms, too, only theirs had been plainer, not topped with these Doric scrolls--volutes, to use the technical term.

Volute: a term I didn't know. But I do know--and of course verified anyway--that the Greek columns with the scrolls are not Doric. The Doric are the plain ones. The ones with scrolls (volutes) are Ionic, and the ornate capitals decorated with rows of curling leaves and scrolls are Corinthian. Doric, Ionic, Corinthian. I learned those terms in sixth grade. Like everything else these days, it's easily checked online (although I used a heavy American Heritage dictionary); but Hallie didn't, and her editor (did she even have one?) didn't.

The cover says: "A novel of suspense." By page 46 the only suspense of any kind is wondering whether this stiflingly inert story that isn't even a story is ever, ever going to go anywhere at all.

I might have given it a chance, even then; but it failed a simple continuity check on page 43. Three strikes and you're out.
2 vote Meredy | Jun 16, 2015 |
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