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Summary and book reviews of Vinegar Hill by A Manette Ansay

Vinegar Hill

by A Manette Ansay

Vinegar Hill
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  • First Published:
    Nov 1999, 240 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 1999, 240 pages

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Book Summary

Ellen has brought her two children into the home of her in-laws - a loveless house - where calculated cruelty is a way of life preserved and perpetuated in the service of a rigid, exacting and angry God.

In a stark, troubling, yet ultimately triumphant celebration of self-determination, award-winning author A. Mannete Ansay re-creates a stifling world of guilt and pain, and the tormented souls who inhabit it. It is 1972 when circumstance carries Ellen Grier and her family back to Holly's Field, Wisconsin. Dutifully accompanying her newly unemployed husband, Ellen has brought her two children into the home of her in-laws on Vinegar Hill - a loveless house suffused with the settling dust of bitterness and routine  -- where calculated cruelty is a way of life preserved and perpetuated in the service of a rigid, exacting and angry God. Behind a facade of false piety, there are sins and secrets in this place that could crush a vibrant young woman's passionate spirit. And here Ellen must find the strength to endure, change, and grow in the all-pervading darkness that threatens to destroy everything she is and everyone she loves.

Chapter 2

After the dishes are washed and put away, Ellen bundles up James's coat, because it is warmer than her own, and goes into the living room, where he and Fritz and Mary?Margaret are watching TV. It's a comfortable room with moss?colored carpet, Fritz's La?Z?Boy, Mary?Margaret's embroidered parlor chair, and a long rectangular picture of the Last Supper, done in somber golds and greens. Beside the TV, Mary?Margaret's piano shines with lemon oil. Amy and Herbert are sitting on the floor, pretending to do their homework with their books spread out in front of them. But their eyes are wide and glassy. They are staring at the screen. They look down quickly when Ellen appears, shapeless as a boulder, the coat sleeves so long that just her fingertips show.

"I'm going for a walk," she says.

'Why?" Herbert says.

"I need the exercise," she says, although that is not the only reason. She ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews

The New Yorker

Ansay transcends both feminist epic and Midwestern gothic to achieve, finally the lunar world of tragedy. This world is lit by the measured beauty of her prose, and the book's final line is worth the pain it takes to get there.

Chicago Tribune

Sweet, tender, and chilling.

Washington Post Book

One of the best books of the year.

Publishers Weekly

As the story concentrates more on Ellen's search for identity-a familiar tale presented here in a familiar way-this sense of nightmare is intensified by an impression of deja vu. Though uneven, the novel offers glimpses of Ansay's potential to deliver a more coherent book next time.

Kirkus Reviews

Lovely prose, but only for those who can stomach the content.

Author Blurb Madison Smartt Bell
A brilliant, bitter book…Manette Ansay's prose style cuts with a diamond edge.

Author Blurb Amy Tan, author of The Joy Luck Club
A modern-day Little House on the Prairie gone mad…Manette Ansay is a powerful storyteller with lyrical gifts, and a wry, observant eye.

Reader Reviews

book worm

Vinegar Hill is one of those books you can't put down! You just have to read it!

godess0161

This was one of the most intense stories of a homemaker tring to find herself and dealing with the "in-laws". I found this book to be very enjoable and hope everyone gets a chance to read it sometime.

D. Fisher

By far, my favorite book of all time. A. Manette Ansay pulls you in with her ability to take you through and back through time. She avoids the laborious over-description of the characters and their surroundings. Involvement this story comes from ...   Read More

Sarah

A great book. I couldn't put it down. You know you have a good book when the trials of the protagonist are so painful that it gets difficult to keep turning the pages and read more, and yet unable to put them down because you need resolve as much as ...   Read More

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