cover image Good Night, Mr. Wodehouse

Good Night, Mr. Wodehouse

Faith Sullivan. Milkweed (PGW, dist.), $26 (456p) ISBN 978-1-57131-111-5

This well-told, appealing book from Minnesota native Sullivan (The Cape Ann) is the latest installment in her cycle of Harvester novels. Nell Stillman is a widow and third-grade schoolteacher living in the rural town of Harvester, Minn., in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. She struggles to raise her son, Hilly; they reside in a snug apartment over Rabel’s Meat Market. She hires her younger cousin Elvira as a live-in housekeeper and also tutors her in reading and the social graces. Typical for a small community, Harvester is a hotbed of gossip, and when the unmarried and pregnant Elvira leaves in disgrace for Chicago, Nell is distraught. As the title suggests, the author establishes how Nell becomes a lifelong devotee to the works of the P.G. Wodehouse, starting with her acquiring his Love Among the Chickens from the town library, a bookcase kept at the Water and Power Company. She indulges her escapist daydreams through his books, and she even corresponds with him. After Hilly returns home tormented with PTSD from his World War I military service, and her love life experiences a shock, Nell increasingly turns to Wodehouse’s funny, ebullient fiction for her deliverance. She emerges as a likable, resilient protagonist in Sullivan’s inspiring novel, which should find its way onto the reading lists of book clubs. (Sept.)