Margreete’s Harbor

Margreete’s Harbor

Author, Eleanor Morse

St. Martin’s Press

384 Pages

I had this lovely book with me last summer on the beach, yet somehow I neglected to share my thoughts on this beauty with you until now. I’m sorry for the oversight, and when you read this quiet, elegant book, you’ll see why I owe you an apology.

This timeless book feels as if you could have taken it down from a library bookshelf fifty years ago and read it. It’s set in the 1950’s and 60’s, so I suppose its classic nature makes sense.  

Opening with a raging fire in Margreete’s kitchen, that first scene helps the reader quickly see what Margreete cannot/will not: the older, independent woman should no longer live alone.

Since she will not give up her lifelong home, it falls to her daughter, Liddie, and her family to uproot and move in with her. Thus begins a decade with the stunningly well-drawn family.

Liddie’s inability to find more time for her cello practice amid increasing family responsibilities speaks to the inherently sacrificial nature of love. Yes, she finds small gulps of fulfillment, but she gives up her larger goals in service to her mother’s wellbeing.

She’s not the only one to sacrifice. Her husband, Harry, has finally settled into a teaching position he likes in Michigan when Liddie insists they move back to Maine. Eventually, he jeopardizes his new teaching position by speaking political truths not in the textbook, and one gets the feeling that’s not the only thing he’s questioning.

Their children adjust to the move and have many tender moments with their grandmother. Little Eva allows her grandmother to share her bed when her grandparent takes to roaming the house at night. Bernie doesn’t complain about his grandmother’s idiosyncrasies such as hiding the remains of dinner in her purse, lovingly interacting with her.  

Written with lyrical, compelling prose, this novel is literary fiction at its finest. And its title does it justice: her family has become Margreete’s harbor, and you love them for it.

If you’re already a fan of Eleanor Morse or of Anne Tyler or Ann Patchett, (and I am a fan of all three) this book is for you.

Full disclosure: I have known and admired the author, Eleanor Morse, for over a decade. She’s a brilliant writer with a kind, gentle soul. All of her novels are just as thoughtful as she is, so if you’re not familiar with her work, now’s the time to consider picking up one of her books.

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