Mary Peters, Tender Novel with Backbone

Mary Ellen Chase’s novel Mary Peters is a hauntingly lovely tale of ordinary people who face life head on.

Mary Peters is not a great novel, but it’s a good novel.

It’s about giving your kids love and discipline.

It’s about compassion, about doing right just because it’s right, and about the futility of cursing the weather.

Maine Wild Rose
Maine Wild Rose

Born on a ship captained by her father in Singapore in 1871, Mary Peters’ home is the sea. When she is 16, her father’s ship sinks: Mary, her mother, Sarah, and brother, John, to go home to Petersport, Maine.

Sarah Peters welcomes Jim Pendleton, the charming bastard son of a man who jilted her years before, setting the town agog.

When Jim takes off, leaving Mary’s best friend to die giving birth to his child, Sarah counsels her children not to condemn him, but to take the long view and wait for things to change.

Mary and John wait.

Things get better, then worse, then better again.

The novel has the feel of 19th-century New England. Death, suffering, infidelity, poverty are treated as facts. These things happen. No one with backbone wallows in today’s misery.

Life goes on.

Wise men go on, too.

Mary Peters
By Mary Ellen Chase
Macmillan, 1934
377 pages
1934 bestseller list #8
My grade: C+

Photo credit: Maine Wild Rose by kklinzing

© 2014 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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Linda Aragoni

I read. I write. I think. I make big ideas simple. I help teachers teach expository writing to teens and adults. In my free time, I read and review old novels.

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