Everyone in Gladstone, Montana recognizes Edie as the smart, self-assured, beautiful wife to her high school sweetheart Dean. But they only see what they want to see. They don’t see the relentless pursuit of Edie by Dean’s
twin brother, Roy. Or Dean’s crippling insecurity in the face of Roy’s calm, easy charm. Edie’s relationship with the Linderman brothers reverberates through the years: from her conventional start as a young bride; to her second marriage to an explosively jealous man with a daughter caught in the middle; to her attempts to protect a granddaughter who is pursued by two lecherous boys. But despite it all, Edie remains strong and independent, no matter how many times her past attempts to claw its way back into her life. Triumphant, engaging, and deeply perceptive, THE LIVES OF EDIE PRITCHARD weaves a complex portrait of a woman determined to live on her own terms.
The Lives of Edie Pritchard follows our heroine through three major periods of her life: during her twenties while she is married to her high school sweetheart, in the midst of her forties as she contemplates leaving her second marriage, and in her senior years as she tries to impart her wisdom to her granddaughter. Edie is an indelible character at any age and over the course of her lifetime we see how she holds onto her sense of self despite what others try to project on to her.
When I picked up this book I was curious how a man would handle the headspace of a woman. Would he understand the nuances of a woman navigating her way through a male dominated society? Would the novel address feminine sentiment in a way that was respectful and honest and true? Does Larry Watson get “it”? Although I do not think he entirely gets us, I did not find myself offended. Perhaps because I expected the book to be through a male lens, I was grateful that he showed her development over time. Watson’s writing is simply stated; cognizant of this woman’s singularity and sense of purpose.
One scene that really made an impression on me was where Edie is talking to Lauren and Roy about how girls in middle school perceive themselves and how their self esteem goes down just about the same time they start getting attention from boys. She asks them why they think this is the case and finally Roy has to admit that “It must be something about the way we look at you.”
This scene takes place when Edie is in her sixties and has come full circle. She has come to accept that people may have their own perceptions of you, that this sense of identity may be caused by false memory or long held views of what they think you should represent. But she is no longer bound to what other people need or want her to be.
When she was in her twenties an offhand comment from a little girl would have prompted her to examine her features and double check that she is not wearing too much makeup and contemplating her hairstyle. A plea to help make a car sale might have her unbuttoning her blouse. In each of these cases she self corrects, disgusted with herself for allowing others to impose their views on her.
By the time she reaches her forties she knows that with her beauty comes expectations from men — including her husband. Even though she wants change in her life, she does not want to forsake her identity to get it.
As a mature woman she is not only self aware, but she also has come to realize that we cannot control what others think of us:
“All of us are someone else in the eyes of others. And for all I know, maybe that other is as true, as real, as the person we believe we are. But the thing is, when you’re back home, you never have a chance to be someone other than who you were then. Even if you never were that person.”
Like Watson’s other novels The Lives of Edie Pritchard is reminiscent of place. Small town Americana comes alive in the form of Gladstone, Montana and is its own character in the book.
“It might not seem like much, this country. A few bare hills, each seeming to rise out of the shadow of the one behind it. Miles of empty prairie, and all of it, hill and plain, the color of paper left out in the sun. You might be out here alone someday with what you thought would be your life. And a gust of wind might blow your heart open like a screen door. And slam it just as fast.”
Meet the Author
Larry Watson is the author of several novels including MONTANA 1948, JUSTICE, WHITE CROSSES, and ORCHARD which have been optioned for film. LET HIM GO was made into a film starring Kevin Costner and Diane Lane and is due to be released this year. Watson’s fiction has been published in ten foreign editions, and has received prizes and awards from Milkweed Press, Friends of American Writers, Mountain and Plains Booksellers Association, Mountain and Plains Library Association, New York Public Library, Wisconsin Library Association, Critics’ Choice, and The High Plains Book Award. He and his wife Susan live in Kenosha, Wisconsin. They have two daughters, Elly and Amy, and two grandchildren, Theodore and Abigail.
Special thanks to Sara Winston from Algonquin Books for bringing this book to my attention.