Margaret Ayer Barnes, who published the haunting Years of Grace to popular and critical acclaim in 1930, pleased her public again in 1934 with Within This Present.
Both novels follow a character from the cusp of womanhood through midlife, allowing readers to live through a slice of history from a domestic perspective.
The woman in Within This Present is Sally Sewall, a girl from a wealthy, close-knit Chicago banking family. At 19, she marries Alan MacLeod before he goes off to the Western Front.
Alan sees only five days of fighting. He comes home feeling cheated of the opportunity to do something that matters.
When Sally says she’s pregnant, Alan says perhaps being a father is what matters. Alan goes to work in the Sewall family’s bank.
Ten years later, Alan becomes involved with a woman in their set. He and Sally are living apart in 1929 when the bank fails. The family crisis predictably brings them back together.
Although Within This Present is an entertaining and enlightening novel, Barnes lets Granny Sewall talk from beginning to end about how young people need challenges to show what they’re made of. Sadly, even dear, sweet Granny’s sermons grow dull with repetition.Within This Present
By Margaret Ayer Barnes
Houghton Mifflin, 1933
1934 bestseller #5
© 2014 Linda Gorton Aragoni
Photo credit: Granny Retro by unknown photographer