A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
Saturday Shorts Week 15
Welcome to our weekend series for 2014. Every Saturday this year one of our staff will suggest a favorite short story from the library’s collection, all of them a great choice for quick weekend reading.
The tall green grass is waving in the fields as the wind goes over, and there is a fragrance of whiteweed and ripe strawberries and clover blowing through the sunshiny barns, with their lean sides and their festoons of brown, dusty cobwebs; dull, comfortable creatures they appear to imaginative eyes, waiting hungrily for their yearly meal. The eave-swallows are teasing their sleepy shapes, like the birds which flit about great beasts; gay, movable, irreverent, almost derisive, those barn swallows fly to and fro in the still, clear air.
“The White Rose Road” was first published in The Atlantic Monthly in 1889. It’s a beautiful narrative about a drive through the country. It’s impressionistic and poetic, but also much more than just a pleasure trip. Jewett gives us a little history, a little gossip, some prophetic insight, and lots of pathos too.
We drive by abandoned farms and thriving gardens. We meet locals still afraid of the scant Native Americans that remain in the nearby forests. There’s one young woman scratching away at her own little plot of farmland, and another too sick to take care of her young family. We hear a tale of an aging Civil War veteran and then learn about the English Civil War exile whose progeny still populate the area. We encounter a lot of sickness and death on this little trip. There’s a funeral, a few sickbeds, and even a man struck by lightning.
It’s a lot to go through in just twelve pages. And through it all “The White Rose Road” somehow manages to be both idyllic and somber. A strange and enlightening bit of nineteenth century storytelling that you won’t soon forget.
Review by Matthew