Thursday, February 17, 2011

The House of Gentle Men

As I put that title in the subject line of this blog, I thought how confused some of you might be who have been reading my blog since I have been in Florida.


House of Gentle Men?


The House of Gentle Men, written by Kathy Hepinstall, tells the story of Charlotte, a young Louisiana woman damaged by her rape on a riverbank by three soldiers who had been training nearby for "maneuvers" against the Germans during World War II. Struck mute by her experience, Charlotte lives as a recluse with her own "sin" and secret, with her younger brother, Milo, a violent young man still working through a childhood accident, of which he was responsible, that killed his mother.

Nearby the home of Charlotte and Milo live the household of the Olen family, a family who moved to the outskirts of the small, Louisiana town eight years before. Mr. Olen, whose wife ran off with another man, welcomes veterans of World War II, who traumatized by their war experience, seek an existence of quiet, rules, and "gentleness." These men, in turn, minister in a "gentle" way to the local women who had been hurt, abused, neglected, abandoned, or left lonely. As Hepinstall notes, "Past and present, crime and forgiveness, silence and words, sin and redemption [shall join] hands."

The novel's premise is quite imaginative --- almost myth like --- but the intent is clear -- life is empty and hopeless without forgiveness as Charlotte reveals at one point near the end of the novel:"I needed to be enemies with God. It helped harden my heart, [but]I forgive you. Because God forgives you."

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