A Very Full Year

Scheibe, Amy. A Fireplace Home for the Bride. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2015.

Have you ever watched someone dive into deep dark waters and waited with a sense of incrementally slower moving time for them to finally emerge from the depths?  Watching the 19th year of Emmy Nelson’s life in Amy Scheibe’s work of artistry, A Fireplace home for the Bride, is a bit like that.

In the course of a year, 18 year-old Emmy learns first-hand the horrors of planned marriages and sexual abuse, discovers the ugly racial history of the small Minnesota town she calls home, falls in and out of love, finds her career passion, leaves a home bereft of any maternal love, and learns the ugly past of her own dysfunctional family.  Is it any wonder that we can’t help but wonder if  she will emerge from the depths?

Amazingly, Emmy does, and not only emerges, but through it all becomes stronger, self-confident, forward-looking and in love for all the right reasons.  Quite a year.  Some people don’t experience that much growth in a lifetime.  And all of this is told in prose that falls on the ear like the softest and most beautiful of snowflakes on a cold Minnesota morning.

“I love you,” Emmy’s boyfriend said.  “She exhaled and tilted her head against the seat, searching her heart for the echo of his words, unprepared for the flat surface they slid across instead.”  Naively she thought that “If tilled and seeded properly, love would grow….”  But she came to learn that that flat surface would never yield what she yearned for.

Scheibe’s gift for metaphor offers us the lovely realization coffee brings to Emmy about the honesty or lack of it she found in people.  “She poured down the cold remains of the morning’s coffee into a glass and chugged it down black.  The bitterness felt right to her, a refreshingly honest representation of a thing not trying to be any more or less than it was.

Emmy’s struggle to reconcile with her mother prompts this beautiful line, “The clock ticked into the awkward silence that draped between them, neither seeming to know how to put down the first stone of the bridge that needed to be rebuilt.”  Have we not all known that experience?  Scheibe’s story is set in Minnesota in the late 1950s, but as is true of any good book, the depths of human experience she relays are truly universal.  

One leaves the book wondering what on earth is in store for Emmy’s 20th year of life.  One can only hope she finds a bit of peace!  Perhaps after finding love that would be most appropriate.

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