House on Oyster Creek (with spoiler)

Schmidt, Heidi Jon. The House on Oyster Creek. New York: NAL Accent, 2010.

Probably the most distracting aspect of Schmidt’s style of writing was her almost fanatical need to portray Henry as the older, colder, and uncaring husband. I get it. Schmidt wants the reader to cheer Charlotte on when she meets a man more to her liking, more to her temperament, more to her everything. You aren’t supposed to hate the damsel in distress. You aren’t even allowed to dislike her. In order to make the damsel’s potential affair acceptable said damsel’s husband needs to be bad. Very bad. If the husband is really awful you wind up begging, praying for that knight in shining armor. In an attempt to make Henry bad I think Schmidt went overboard. As a result Henry became a caricature of the very worst. In the first chapter alone (we’re talking 13 pages) there were over 24 negative words associated with Henry. Here are some, but not all, of the words and phrases used to describe Henry’s words, actions and demeanor. I left out dialogue with Charlotte:

  • irritation
  • seething
  • contempt
  • staunch
  • “heart seemed to harden” (p 3)
  • bleak
  • rebellious
  • stark
  • “nothing pleased him” (p 6)
  • fury
  • bitter
  • “fit to kill” (p 7)
  • “real hatred” (p 8.)
  • rigid
  • suspicion
  • jeer
  • scorn
  • irritated
  • contemptuous
  • darkening
  • “glance was poison” (p 11)
  • infuriating
  • infuriated
  • “patience stretched to breaking” (p 13)
  • shuddered
  • “spasm of disgust” (p 13)
  • icy

To make matters worse, on the other side of this marriage is Charlotte and her demure, sweet, sensitive, caring, loving, “made of empathy” personality. Schmidt is not as fanatical about driving that point home. But, you get the point just the same.

However…once I got beyond page 14 I loved The House on Oyster Creek. Charlotte is a little self-righteous at times but after putting up with Henry all those years she deserves to. While House on Oyster Creek focuses on Charlotte as she makes her way the book is really about the entire community she joins. Schmidt is extremely accurate when introducing Charlotte to the new community. when it comes to a tight-knit community there will always be this Them and Us attitude. You could be in a community for over 30 years and just because you are the first generation to do so, you are still the newcomers in town. The more generations you can brag of, the more clout you have in the community.

Of course, I had favorite lines that I really hope Schmidt keeps in the book, but I won’t quote them here.

I have to admit I never rooted for Charlotte to have an affair. There was something so broken about Henry that I think Charlotte owed it to him to work it out. When Darryl ends up marrying someone else I was happy. I can admit the story ended exactly how I wanted it to end.

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