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Holy Days of Obligation by Susan Zettell
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Holy Days of Obligation

by Susan Zettell

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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 092183361X, Paperback)

Holy Days of Obligation is a collection of short stories which weaves together the family history of a working-class Catholic family. Set in industrial Ontario, the stories are narrated by Bertie, who is the oldest of nine children. Bertie uneasily straddles two worlds: that of her parents, Frank and Elizabeth, who have too many children and not enough money, and that of her siblings, with whom Bertie shares the confidences and frustations and adventures of growing up.

Bertie understands better than any of the others what her parents go through with the demands of their children—from young Richard who is constantly in trouble, to Catherine, whom Bertie resents because she is prettier and more popular than Bertie is herself, to Robert, who seems destined to be her only sibling to maintain a happy marriage until he inexplicably commits suicide. After Robert’s death, which she had had a premonition about, Bertie inherits her grandmother’s quilt. Bertie is unwilling to accept the quilt, which has always been associated with the untimely death of her Uncle Charlie, and carries all the responsibilities of being the eldest. After another close call for her sister Catherine, Bertie passes on the quilt, because she realizes "What happens in families has nothing to do with quilts and doodled words on paper. It has to do with possibilities. And with all we know and say about one another and all we know, and can’t say. It has to do with what each of us keeps hidden." This collection of stories uncovers some of those hidden secrets and the bonds that hold a family together.

There is a shimmering poignancy to these stories—these characters are real people who live their lives with pride and dignity, and are never pitiable despite their poverty. They are people we care about from beginning to end. people we hold our breath and wish the very best for.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:53 -0400)

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