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The Wife Tree

von Dorothy Speak

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312629,606 (3.39)8
Morgan Hazzard is caught late in life between a cold husband and the self-righteous opinions of her grown children. Forty years of marriage to a hard, prairie-bred man have frozen her into the semblance of a meek and steadfast wife. But when a stroke silences William, Morgan's feelings begin to thaw. A quietly courageous woman emerges and starts to learn -- on the eve of her seventy-fifth birthday -- her own surprising strength and capacity for joy and change. Morgan's miserable marriage was not the beginning of her hardships. Life on the farm where she grew up was harsh. To her indifferent mother, she was just another mouth to feed. At sixteen, she was raped by an older brother who silenced her with threats; she was sent away to a convent to have and then give up the child. Two of her sons died very young. Her irascible husband, who himself was scarred by childhood horrors, derided her lack of interest in politics and wars, called her stupid, and crushed her confidence. Her six daughters, now living in other countries, criticize her for weakness, for her dislike of modernization and technology, without attempting to understand her. Morgan Hazzard is tired of being underestimated. Suddenly freed from William's influence by the stroke, which leaves him helpless and mute, she begins to act as she wants. She defies her bridge-playing friends and thwarts the money-grabbing plans of her son. She begins to live life consciously for the first time, reassessing her place in the world. At leisure to observe her surroundings, she sees the landscape afresh, in spite of failing eyesight. In a narrative woven together from diary entries, dreams, unsent letters to her girls, and the recollections she forces on William, an unexpected journey of self-discovery unfolds. An unlikely heroine, Morgan feels like "a lone explorer in an undiscovered land" as she faces the world without William, but her sense of humour and new-found self-worth sustain her. After years of enforced silence she is finding her own voice again. Finally putting aside the needs of her family and making peace with her past, Morgan learns to love herself, which seems a hopeful start. In this extraordinary but triumphant coming-of-age story, Morgan finds peace and self-reliance in her old age as she contemplates her future. When The Wife Tree was published, the Ottawa Citizen said, "[Speak] creates Morgan as a complicated woman, at seventy-four still unsure of herself, still learning and yearning." Speak is the author of two books of acclaimed short stories, and The Wife Tree, her much-anticipated first novel, has been compared to Carol Shields' The Stone Diaries and Margaret Laurence's The Stone Angel. Speak shares with them an interest in depicting real, recognizable people whose lives are less mundane than they first appear; a characteristic also of the work of Alice Munro. The Calgary Herald said: "Dorothy Speak has the remarkable ability to create mature female characters with whom we can readily empathize, and to translate the unspoken into language honestly, wisely and with insightful wit."… (mehr)
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    Stone Angel 1st Edition von Margaret Laurence (betterthanchocolate)
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This is the story of 70-something Morgan Hazzard, whose husband has just suffered a stroke and is in hospital unable to walk or talk. As the story unfolds, we learn that Morgan has seven children; her six daughters all live far away (other continents, mostly) and her son is an evangelical Christian. All are emotionally distant from Morgan. The book is very well written, and I loved Morgan as a character. She is totally over-shadowed by her verbally abusive husband, she is haunted by childhood trauma. We see her going from a strong young woman to a meek and submissive wife and mother. As she deals with her husband's illness, and the absence of any supportive family, we learn more about her life and marriage.

What I didn't like was that the daughters are very undeveloped as characters, and a couple of events stretched my ability to suspend disbelief. Still, a great story, well-written. ( )
  LynnB | Sep 4, 2018 |
interesting. the heroine is very irritating. many people she meets on her odyssey seem to be enchanted by her choices. she becomes blind but never complains of this and seems to manage fine.?her kids are dreadful, her husband too ( )
  mahallett | Mar 30, 2010 |
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Morgan Hazzard is caught late in life between a cold husband and the self-righteous opinions of her grown children. Forty years of marriage to a hard, prairie-bred man have frozen her into the semblance of a meek and steadfast wife. But when a stroke silences William, Morgan's feelings begin to thaw. A quietly courageous woman emerges and starts to learn -- on the eve of her seventy-fifth birthday -- her own surprising strength and capacity for joy and change. Morgan's miserable marriage was not the beginning of her hardships. Life on the farm where she grew up was harsh. To her indifferent mother, she was just another mouth to feed. At sixteen, she was raped by an older brother who silenced her with threats; she was sent away to a convent to have and then give up the child. Two of her sons died very young. Her irascible husband, who himself was scarred by childhood horrors, derided her lack of interest in politics and wars, called her stupid, and crushed her confidence. Her six daughters, now living in other countries, criticize her for weakness, for her dislike of modernization and technology, without attempting to understand her. Morgan Hazzard is tired of being underestimated. Suddenly freed from William's influence by the stroke, which leaves him helpless and mute, she begins to act as she wants. She defies her bridge-playing friends and thwarts the money-grabbing plans of her son. She begins to live life consciously for the first time, reassessing her place in the world. At leisure to observe her surroundings, she sees the landscape afresh, in spite of failing eyesight. In a narrative woven together from diary entries, dreams, unsent letters to her girls, and the recollections she forces on William, an unexpected journey of self-discovery unfolds. An unlikely heroine, Morgan feels like "a lone explorer in an undiscovered land" as she faces the world without William, but her sense of humour and new-found self-worth sustain her. After years of enforced silence she is finding her own voice again. Finally putting aside the needs of her family and making peace with her past, Morgan learns to love herself, which seems a hopeful start. In this extraordinary but triumphant coming-of-age story, Morgan finds peace and self-reliance in her old age as she contemplates her future. When The Wife Tree was published, the Ottawa Citizen said, "[Speak] creates Morgan as a complicated woman, at seventy-four still unsure of herself, still learning and yearning." Speak is the author of two books of acclaimed short stories, and The Wife Tree, her much-anticipated first novel, has been compared to Carol Shields' The Stone Diaries and Margaret Laurence's The Stone Angel. Speak shares with them an interest in depicting real, recognizable people whose lives are less mundane than they first appear; a characteristic also of the work of Alice Munro. The Calgary Herald said: "Dorothy Speak has the remarkable ability to create mature female characters with whom we can readily empathize, and to translate the unspoken into language honestly, wisely and with insightful wit."

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