Sydney AveyDynamic Women — Changing Times
Book Review: Up the Hill To Home
I knew I was going to love this family history when Charley falls in love with much older Emma because her bearing signals self-possession and strong character. His antics to win her heart are hysterical. Their negotiations as they consider matrimony should be taught in school!
If one quote captures the book’s theme, it might be Professor Dettweiller’s word’s to Charley and Emma’s only child Lillie, “Remember, Lillie: good and bad both, our history conspires to make us who we are.” No one is wholly good or wholly bad, he tells her. Indeed, a callous streak that runs through the generations illustrates this point. It begins with Lillie’s grandfather, who fails to consider the effects on his family when he voluntarily stays away too long during the Civil War. And it is visible in Emma and Lillie, who show disregard for Lillie’s husband Ferd when they plan Lillie’s future to suit themselves.
The sweep of history
The episodes in Lillie’s life show a sweep of history that makes us glad of progress in some areas (most notably, medicine and opportunities for women to use their educations) and sad for the losses growth has wrought. We might well mourn the passing of intimate family and community ties that a slower pace of life fostered.
The reproduction of letters Lillie’s grandfather wrote to his abandoned wife told that part of the story well, but I found myself more intrigued by Lillie’s academic talent. Under her professor’s tutelage, she pieced together the mystery of her grandfather’s absence from his family. Still, she either has no ambition to use that talent or, more likely, cannot see her way past her destiny to marry and raise a large family. Such were the times.
Yacovissi tells her family’s story with deep respect, love, and precious little sentimentality. That approach serves the story well.
© Sydney Avey