by Eleanor Scott Meyers
ESMeyersPRESS, Claremont CA, 2018
Paperback, 282 pages, $18.95
Available online through Powells Bookstore and Amazon
Ruth meets Cassandra early in her marriage to Ed and gradually becomes central to a quietly piercing, entirely credible three-way love story that sustains an unwanted child, a large extended family, a small Midwestern town – and the reader – until death do us part.
Beloved lesbian commitment is not the book’s only, or even principal subject. One of the pleasures of The Compromise is how sturdily it takes shape in a rural Kansas community during the Depression and how carefully it skirts the high drama to which same-sex-advocate storytellers often resort. Readers will find no treachery in this novel, only delicately nuanced restraint as two women and one man bond in friendship through the hurts, doubts, joys and challenges of a permanently lopsided relationship. Son Taylor eventually “unriddles” his unconventional upbringing to uncover the legacy of being parented by a threesome. His wife Margaret, firmly rooted in the author’s own experience, speaks potently to the questions of generational pain that haunt our times. Her wise, calm voice testifies to the faith, hard work and enduring love that bring grace into the present.
This tri-fold romance unfolds at a deliberate clip with a sharp eye for peripheral detail. Meyers writes in muted, controlled images; she likes to show us the rooms her characters inhabit, the implements they use and the aprons they wear. Many scenes take place in dining rooms and kitchens; the story opens in a cemetery and closes after a funeral. Latter chapters detail the complexities of aging as Margaret helps Ruth and Ed wrestle with decisions about where to live, what to discard and how to manage their final years.
The Compromise is clearly the work of an artist who loves her subjects. In her first novel, Eleanor Scott Meyers gifts us with generational hope, faith and love conveyed in subdued, emotionally layered prose. Her sturdy characters comforted me as I kept vigil at my son’s deathbed. They will speak to Friends facing old age, a testimony to what love can do in complex personal relationships warmed by simplicity, truth, peace, integrity and community. Book discussion groups will find this novel rich in meaning.
Judith Favor is grateful for this loving glimpse into a rural Midwestern household upheld by Quaker values. She is a member of Claremont Meeting in California.