cover image The Little Locksmith

The Little Locksmith

Katharine Butler Hathaway. Feminist Press, $14.95 (258pp) ISBN 978-1-55861-239-6

Upon its original publication in 1943, Hathaway's testament to a full life despite debilitating disease earned glowing reviews and became a bestseller--and then dropped utterly out of sight. Rediscovered by the Feminist Press, this remarkably un-self-pitying book remains poignant and truthful. As a child in Salem, Mass., Hathaway was diagnosed with spinal tuberculosis and, in the most advanced treatment of the time, was strapped to a board from head to toe and kept immobile for 10 years. During this period of enforced introversion, she developed astonishing inner resources and imagination, and a meticulous appreciation for life's details that would inform her work. When she regained mobility at age 15, she found her disability a forbidden topic and realized that a ""deformed"" girl was automatically expected to become a spinster aunt, forever dependent on her family for love and companionship. Hathaway heartily rebelled, moving and buying herself a large clapboard house in Maine, where she proceeded with the business of living. Hathaway treats the actual events in her life as practically irrelevant: the story she emphasizes is her spiritual and creative struggle to claim ""selfish"" time to write, her intense loneliness, her startlingly frank observations about her sexuality and her rebellion against the belief that an imperfect person does not experience desire. Hathaway's simple descriptions of the writing process are beautiful and on the mark. We're left wishing for the planned second and third volumes, which Hathaway did not have time to write before her death in 1942. (July)