cover image Household Words

Household Words

Joan Silber. W. W. Norton & Company, $13.95 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-393-32823-3

Originally published in 1980, National Book Award finalist Silber's first novel gives taut insight into the the possibilities of introspection for a woman of the Greatest Generation. Unsentimental Rhoda Taber lives in suburban New Jersey with her practical pharmacist-husband Leonard and, eventually, their two vastly different daughters, Suzanne and Claire. Silber (Ideas of Heaven) follows Rhoda from Suzanne's birth, in 1940, to late middle age, episodically exploring Rhoda's ""unremitting force of character"" and sometimes ""startling hardness."" Rhoda and Leonard socialize, do some low-level schmoozing, and mundanely move along through the '40s, until Leonard dies of heart attack at 42. As Rhoda struggles to reconfigure the Taber household, words, sometimes shouted, are frequently whispered. Mostly, though, the words and the feelings behind them, both good and bad, are left unsaid. That Rhoda comes, more and more, to articulate them for herself is what gives this book its particular shape, and imparts its palpable sense of growth.