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Vinegar Hill by A. Manette Ansay
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Vinegar Hill

by A. Manette Ansay

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1,959514,930 (3.11)37

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Showing 1-5 of 50 (next | show all)
Dark, but unable to put it down. It tells the life of a Catholic Family that lives on Vinegar Hill in the 1970s. Son Jimmy moves the family in with his parents, and wife Ellen works and is the servant to his parents in their stifling house. Everything is life perpetuated by a vengeful God, and false piety prevails ( )
  nancynova | Aug 6, 2017 |
This book was amazingly creepy in all the right ways. The writing was easy to read and the pages flew by. This is one book I wish would have never ended. ( )
  JillKenna | Jul 9, 2017 |
This was my introduction to this author and I would be keen to read more. There are strong characterizations and slowly the reader discovers the reasons why people are who they are. ( )
  HelenBaker | Jan 29, 2017 |
This is a quietly powerful book. It's about a wife and mother and her extended family and her husband's extended family, set in the early 1970s. It's a statement about how cruelty and abuse affect each generation, and perhaps how difficult it is to break that cycle. It's about those who live with victims and how it affects everyone. And it's about a woman breaking free of this repression and madness. It's also about how twisted religion can be and has been in many lives. This book borders on 5 stars for me, but I selected 4 because in just a few places, it seemed disconnected. When I finished the book, I wanted to read it again to get the details I missed or didn't understand in the early reading. Other than that, I thought the writing was brilliant. ( )
  Rascalstar | Jan 21, 2017 |
A bitter, tragic book of abuse both physical and mental in a small town. Behind a facade of god fearing people, Ellen marries an abusive man and doesn't see anything different to live by as she moves into her husband's home, a home with his equally abusive parents. Mary Margaret and Fitz are horrid characters whose son James can be seen to follow their footsteps. The abusive is so out there. Mary Margaret says horrible things to Ellen, her daughter in law and to the children too. Fitz physically beats them.We see that James and Ellen's two children soon will fall into the cycle. Or will Ellen figure it out? ( )
  Smits | Nov 24, 2016 |
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Epigraph
Pendant from her chain her cross swung as she leant out the sun struck it. How could she weigh herself down by that sleek symbol? How stamp herself so volatile, so vagrant, with that image? -Virginia Wolff, Between the Acts

God isn't like a star that can go out. -Stewart O'Nan, In the Walled City
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For Sylvia J. Ansay
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In the gray light of the kitchen,m Ellen sets the table for supper. keeping the chipped plate back for herself before lowering the rest in turn.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060897848, Paperback)

Oprah Book Club® Selection, November 1999: Vinegar Hill is an appropriate address for the characters who populate A. Manette Ansay's novel of the same name. After all, when Ellen Grier and her family return to the rural hamlet of Holly's Field, Wisconsin, it's not exactly a happy homecoming. Her husband, James, has been laid off from his job in Illinois. And for the moment, the family has moved in with Ellen's in-laws, Fritz and Mary-Margaret, an unhappy pair who dislike their daughter-in-law almost as much as they despise each other:
The first time Ellen sat at this table she was twenty years old, bright-cheeked after a spring afternoon spent walking along the lakefront with James, planning their upcoming wedding. It was 1959 and she was eager to make a good impression. She didn't know then that Mary-Margaret disliked her, that she was considered Jimmy's mistake.
Thirteen years later, in 1972, Ellen is back at the table with no escape in sight. Both she and her husband do find work. Yet James seems to settle a tad too easily into his old life, and shows no interest in finding a place of their own. Even worse, his job takes him away from home for weeks at a time, leaving Ellen to cope with her abusive in-laws.

In Vinegar Hill Ansay paints a searing portrait of the Midwest's dark side, of a rural culture infected with despair and ruled over by an unforgiving God. Yet she does hold out a grain of hope, too. Just as Ellen seems permanently entangled in familial desperation, she makes a surprising discovery about James's long-dead grandmother--a woman whose rebellious spirit inspires Ellen to rescue herself and her loved ones from the impinging darkness. This late-breaking redemption doesn't cancel out the preceding unhappiness: Vinegar Hill remains a tough, uncompromising tale, one that requires some fortitude to read. But those with the heart for it will be rewarded with fine, spare prose and a hopeful ending. --Alix Wilber

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:20 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

In her debut novel, Manette Ansay writes of one woman's gradual realization that in order to reenvision her life she must break all the rules. It is 1972 and Ellen Grier finds herself back in the Midwestern hometown she thought she had escaped for good. Worse yet, she and her family have had to move in with her in-laws: narrow-minded, eccentric people who are as tough as the farm lives they have endured. Devout Catholics, they inhabit a world "as rigid, as precise as a church," and Ellen struggles to live by their motto: "A place for everything; everything in its place." But there is no place for Ellen -- fresh, funny, bright with passion -- in a house filled with the dust of routine and the ritual of prayer, the lingering bitterness of her in-laws' loveless marriage. She tries to be the model woman everyone expects her to be -- teaching at the Catholic school, coaxing her traveling-salesman husband through his increasingly irrational moods, caring for his aging parents -- but Ellen's hopes for her family's future collide with life in this bizarre household, and she worries over her wryly observant adolescent daughter and her timid young son. Encouraged by her friend Barb, a woman ostracized for being "modern" and "wild," Ellen begins to consider her own desires and dreams as well. Surrounded by the family's obsession with an exacting, angry God and the disquieting ghosts of the past, Ellen searches for a way to satisfy the demands of this rural community and its traditions until, at last, she discovers the family's darkest secret, one that frees her and changes her life forever.… (more)

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