A NovelBook - 2007
In Beulah, Iowa, widow women all over town garden in the clothes of deceased husbands. From a distance, they often look like small-framed men. They keep their husbands' clothes because it's wasteful to throw away hats and shirts that still have wear in them. They wear the clothes in memory of the men they have survived, even after the scent of them has been laundered away.
From its remarkable opening lines to its satisfying, redemptive close, Dwelling Places is a novel of plain beauty and profound emotion.
When Mack Barnes arrives home from a stay in the psych ward, he is just beginning to name his troubles, and the entire family must recognize their collective wounds. After six generations of farming, Mack's family has had to call it quits - just barely saving the family home, but at the cost of Mack's brother Alex and father Taylor Sr. Mack's mother Rita perseveres by trying to take care of everyone, everyone that is, except herself. Jodie, Mack's wife, has survived so much and coped for so long that she cannot recognize her own desperation. Her only remnant of religious faith consisting of old hymns she sings just to keep herself from total distraction, Jodie seeks solace in an ill-advised affair with a local teacher. Kenzie, Mack and Jodie's fourteen year old daughter, has turned to an idealized Jesus for comfort, while Taylor, at seventeen, deals wtih his troubles by becoming a Goth, convincing his little sister that he's given over to Satan.