Sep 28, 13
Read in October, 2010, read count: 2
I re-read this book because I remember loving it, and I still do. It's a short, enchanting read that will buoy your spirits. Andrew Oliver Thale, the main character, is a young New York writer who, due to a harrowing accident, is depressed and blocked and unable to resume his successful career as a mystery novelist. For an income he is writing the company newsletter for Meredith Machines, where his father is a VP. Obviously Andrew is not at home in the corporate world. One weekend his father sends him to check out an old house on twenty-five acres in rural Massachusetts that's been sitting empty for five years that he'd inherited from an eccentric aunt. Andrew finds that it's not empty at all, but squatters are living there with no electricity. And there begins the tale of Thale's Folly. The eccentric residents, strays collected by his deceased great aunt Harriet Thale, are all charming and engaging, if a little kooky, with mysterious pasts. Andrew is quite taken with them, especially pretty young Tarragon Sage Valerian, who, as a baby nobody wanted, had been rescued by his great aunt and named for the herbs she grew and loved. The inhabitants of Thale's Folly grow most of their food and are tied to the land in ways alien to a Manhattanite, and there is a gentle sort of Nature worship. One of the elder squatters, Gussie, "knows things" and cast a spell to find a husband for Tarragon. Andrew unknowingly is the first to show up and is horrified that elderly women are trying to find a match for Tarragon by advertising for a farm laborer and trusting in a witch's spell. While he's marooned there with a broken down car, Andrew discovers some truths about his own family as well as a mystery to solve. The story reminded me a bit of one of my favorite old black and white movies, "You Can't Take It With You" from 1938, where an eccentric assortment of characters live happily together in a rambling old house that stands in the way of development and progress. Dorothy Gilman knows how to write a magical heartwarming read without being sentimental and mushy.