St. Elizabeth's is a home for unwed mothers in the 1960s. Life there is not unpleasant, and for most, it is temporary. Not so for Rose, a beautiful, mysterious woman who comes to the home pregnant but not unwed. She plans to give up her baby because she knows she cannot be the mother it needs. But St. Elizabeth's is near a healing spring, and when Rose's time draws near, she cannot go through with her plans, not all of them. And she cannot remain forever untouched by what she has left behind ... and who she has become in the leaving.
My take: 4 looks
This was a pleasurable book to read. The writing was robust and clever. I can see why Patchett has so much buzz about her right now. I found the book to be easy to read and hard to put down.
However, keeping me from giving this one 5 looks was the character around whom all others revolved: Rose. I found her to be a bit shallow and one-dimensional. I don't think this was the intention at all, in that I believe Patchett intended this character to be complex, brooding and unpredictable. I found her to be just the opposite. Rose was fervent in her lack of feeling and emotion, running when she got the good chance, and you knew she was going to run. Toward the end of the book, I found myself wondering if perhaps the author meant to give the impression that Rose suffered from Schizoid Personality Disorder. I was never compassionate toward Rose, and perhaps that was not the point, but by the end of the book, I didn't care at all about her.
Son, Cecilia and Sister Evangeline saved the story. They were all very compelling, complete and full characters. I felt Son's trepidation, sorry and joy. I ached for Cecilia to find her own way, first at St. Elizabeth's, then a way out of the grand hotel. Sister Evangeline was the mother/grandmother/confidant we all wish to have. The way they all interacted with Rose and because of Rose was a good tale.
I liked this book, and will read more by this author.