A Fireproof Home for the Bride by Amy Scheibe

A Fireproof Home for the Bride by Amy Scheibe
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (384 pgs)
Rated: 3 stars
Reviewed by Snapdragon

Emmaline Nelson and her sister Birdie grow up in the hard, cold rural Lutheran world of strict parents, strict milking times, and strict morals. Marriage is preordained, the groom practically predestined. Though it’s 1958, southern Minnesota did not see changing roles for women on the horizon. Caught in a time bubble between a world war and the ferment of the 1960’s, Emmy doesn’t see that she has any say in her life, any choices at all. Only when Emmy’s fiancé shows his true colors and forces himself on her does she find the courage to act—falling instead for a forbidden Catholic boy, a boy whose family seems warm and encouraging after the sere Nelson farm life. Not only moving to town and breaking free from her engagement but getting a job on the local newspaper begins to open Emmy’s eyes. She discovers that the KKK is not only active in the Midwest but that her family is involved, and her sense of the firm rules she grew up under—and their effect—changes completely.

Set in Minnesota mid twentieth century, A Fireproof Home for the Bride is a dark, reflective novel of one woman’s struggle to … evolve, I guess… past her upbringing. This isn’t so much coming of age as it is the escape from a lifestyle. The worst of it isn’t that there is rife racism and sexism, it is that it is so much the norm. Although hate-driven action is there, the everyday hate, seeing it simply as ‘the way it was,’ seems somehow very much worse.

Emmaline Nelson grows up in this world that makes the modern reader cringe, then very nearly squirm. We wonder if it could have been true, and how any person could even hope become a ‘someone else,’ a person with a different outlook, coming from such origins. The story does provoke thought, along with the unease. However, the writing is rather wordy, and if literary equals boring, then many a whole passage is very, very literary. However, characters are well-developed and incredibly diverse. There is hatred, expectations; a whole life planned and caged and the people around Emmy are all part of it. Yet, some of those people have a surprising side: a secret, or are simply more sympathetic side than we first suspect. The quality of characters, or of our main character’s development, is certainly excellent. The overall style of writing is top-notch as well.

A Fireproof Home for the Bride is certainly more reflective than gripping. Sadness pervades the story, and ultimately, it is disturbing. It is a valuable read, but I cannot say it was entirely enjoyable.

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