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The Lives of Edie Pritchard (2020)

by Larry Watson

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This novel has an old-fashioned feel, in the best possible way. It's a thoughtful character study of a woman in Montana, beginning during her first marriage in the 1960s. Larry Watson knows what he's doing and knows how to write a sentence and the entire novel was a delight to read. Edie marries the quieter twin brother and deals with both her husband's insecurity and her brother-in-law's constant attempts to win her over. As the years pass, Edie develops from a woman who had a contentious relationship with her own daughter to one who is willing to go to bat for her granddaughter, and from a woman who runs away from a bad situation to one who is willing to stand up and speak her mind clearly.

Edie is a wonderful character who does her best to be a good wife and who is also willing to leave when the situation becomes intolerable, something she'll have to do more than once in her life. Edie feels constrained by life in a Montana town and yet she returns to it. She's pursued by men, but refuses to allow that to determine her life's path. This novel is an excellent character study of a woman who grows more secure in herself and less willing to compromise to meet the needs of men, as well as an evocative picture of rural Montana in the second half of the last century. ( )
  RidgewayGirl | Jun 23, 2020 |
I had twin uncles. They were identical in appearance. One joined the navy. The other worked in an auto factory and built a cabin. When one died, his twin divorced his wife and married his brother's widow.

It was more complicated than that, of course. But the gist of their story was that, in the end, they both loved the same woman.

In The Lives of Edie Pritchard by Larry Watson, Edie is loved by twin brothers. Her story is revealed through three road trips across Montana.

She leaves home to become her own person; then returns home to confront her past escape her present; and last of all, she goes on a quest to save her granddaughter.

Dean Linderman was unsure that Edie had meant to marry him and not his twin brother Roy. Roy was the hunk, the chick magnet. Dean was quiet, introspective. Why would the most beautiful girl in town choose to marry him when she could have had his brother?

Dean was jealous but passive, even knowing that Roy still carried a torch for his wife. Edie pleaded to move away, hoping to separate the brothers to save her marriage. They needed a fresh start.

Dean assumes that Edie wants to move so she won't fall into bed with Roy. No, Edie replies, "What I'm afraid of is that you'll end up with him."

Edie Pritchard did not ask for the attention of men. She resented their unwanted attentions. Her first marriage ends because Dean's repressed jealousy came between their love. Her second marriage ended because Gary didn't truly love her; he only wanted to possess her.

She's done with complications. She's done with men, including the nice guy who stalks her at work, and especially the younger men who come on to her. It seems that no sees or care about who she is, just their projections they create based on her beauty. No one ever asked Edie what she wanted.

Edie knows she failed as a mom to her and Gary's daughter, Jennifer. Jennifer's teenage daughter Lauren shows up with her boyfriend Billy and his best friend Troy, escaping her unhappy home. Troy is deeply insinuated into Lauren's relationship with Billy. No one understands better than Edie that when a couple is a threesome, there is trouble ahead. And Troy is trouble. One more complication has entered Edie's life.

Lauren moves on with the men, later sending a cry for help. Roy shows up to help Edie rescue Lauren, still insisting it was always and only her that he loved.

In a climatic scene, Edie makes a dramatic stand, hoping to save her granddaughter from the men who would use her.

Watson's book explores the boxes men put women into, the compromises women make, and what it takes for a woman to live authentically. Easy to read, with detailed descriptions of the past and the landscape and great characterizations, I loved this story of Edie Pritchard and her individuation quest for self-realization.

I received a free ebook from the publisher in exchange for a fair and unbiased review. ( )
  nancyadair | May 29, 2020 |
Larry Watson is a writer whose work I have followed with great interest for more than twenty years now, so I was pleased to learn he had a new book, THE LIVES OF EDIE PRITCHARD. And damn, is this a good one! I'm not surprised, of course, because I've never met a Watson book I didn't like.

The book is divided into three sections - Edie in the 60s ("Edie Linderman"), in the 80s ("Edie Dunn") and, finally, twenty more years later, in 2007 ("Edie Pritchard"). We meet Edie in 1967, in her mid-twenties, still living in her small hometown of Gladstone, Montana, and married to her high school boyfriend, Dean Linderman. The hook here is that Dean has a fraternal twin brother, Roy, a real ladies' man, who is still very much in the picture, because the brothers are very close. It's almost as if Roy were part of the whole marriage package. There's nothing kinky going on here, understand, but it makes Edie uncomfortable, and also frustrated that she can never quite command all of her husband's attention. The young couple both have dead-end jobs, she in a bank, he in a local sporting goods store. Roy, always flashier than Dean, buys and sells cars, or "wheels and deals." He is also very much enamored of Edie. I should probably also mention that Edie is very beautiful, and, in the course of her story, we learn something about how such beauty can be a kind of a curse.

Interestingly enough, "Edie Linderman" begins with Roy taking a trip north to buy a truck. Dean was supposed to go with him, but falls ill that day, so Edie goes instead. Their destination is the small town of Bentrock, where things take a nasty turn. Watson fans may remember Bentrock was the setting for Watson's 1993 award-winning novella, MONTANA 1948. It took me a while to remember that. But it's interesting that Watson establishes this tenuous link to his new novel. In any case, Roy buys the truck, but on the trip home, he is run off the road by an unsavory pair of brothers, and ends up in the hospital with a compound fracture to his leg and other injuries. In the course of his months-long recuperation, we learn more about the trio's high school years, especially about Edie. Because this is essentially a woman's story, all about what it was like to be a woman growing up in the 1950s. And Watson pulls it off. Here's this smart, beautiful woman who can't quite figure out how to be her own person, how to be someone other than a girl friend or a wife or mother - or grandmother. She is, at first, the pliable girl friend, then the obedient wife, until it becomes too much. Until the closeness of her husband and his brother becomes too much of an impediment to the marriage, and she runs.

In "Edie Dunn" we find Edie, in 1987, remarried in another town, with an eighteen year-old daughter. Her husband, Gary, is jealous, abusive and can even be brutal. She takes her daughter Jennifer and returns to Bentrock, where Dean is dying of cancer, and finds Roy now ensconced in a loveless marriage of convenience with a couple teenage stepsons (who are very taken with Jennifer and compete for her attention). Gary comes after her and things go south for everyone.

In the final section, "Edie Pritchard" (her maiden name, which she has reclaimed), Edie is saddled with her eighteen year-old granddaughter, Lauren, who is estranged from her mother and traveling with her boyfriend, Billy, and his brother, Jesse (who is criminally inclined, a dealer). It seems there's a continuous thread here, about brothers, ya know? First, the Linderman twins, then the Bauer brothers (the Bentrock baddies), then Roy's two stepsons, who pursue Jennifer, and finally this Billy and Jesse pair, both trying to claim Edie's granddaughter, Lauren. And hey, Billy and Jesse? Both notorious bad guy names in the West. Not good. And there are some very tense moments and confrontations here. But, as a grandmother, single, with her own condo and a decent job in a dentist's office, Edie, still beautiful, has finally got her s**t together.

I'm not telling any of this nearly as well as Watson does, but lemme just say that THE LIVES OF EDIE PRITCHARD was a fascinating read for this old guy. Because, as Edie tells her daughter, who gets all excited that she's finally going to meet Dean, "The man from my mom's other life? Wow!" - "It's all one life, Jen, you need to know that."

Reading Edie's story made me remember the last time I read a really good book about a woman written by a man. That was Larry McMurtry's TERMS OF ENDEARMENT, with Aurora Greenway - and Emma and Patsy in there too. Watson does women just as well, or at least one old guy thinks so. I enjoyed the holy hell outa this book. Now I've gotta go back and read MONTANA 1948 again. This one? Very highly recommended.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER ( )
  TimBazzett | May 25, 2020 |
"I mean, all of us are someone else in the eyes of others. And for all I know, maybe that other is as true, as real, as the person we believe we are."

Meet Edie, a young woman who married Dean, one of a set of fraternal twins. Problem is his brother, his twin also has feelings for Edie and is not too subtle in his interactions with his brother's wife. This effects all three of them in not so healthy a way.

We next meet Edie twenty years later and in a different place, in a different situation. Edie is still searching for her true self, her own life.

The last section shows an Edie that has accomplished much, has finally found her own personal space and a measure of peace. But as always in life, fate throws us a curve and how we meet the challenge can define the person we think we have become.

Watson has such a insight into families, mothers, daughters and their sometimes contentious relationship. As hard as we try we cannot always keep those we love from making the same mistakes we did.
Unresolved feelings and the face we show the world can sometimes define who we are, how we act.

This is such a relateable story and I'm betting many readers will see parts of themselves in Edie. I did.

ARC from Netgalley. ( )
  Beamis12 | Mar 28, 2020 |
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