A Robin's Pageant

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

In 1922, Louella, a young widow, gives birth to her first child. Grieving for her husband, she relinquishes her newborn son to her sister. When the baby dies in her sister’s care, the effects of
Louella’s wrenching decision and the repercussions of her loss define who she is when becomes a wife and mother again, twenty years later. Louella narrates, and the voices of her daughter,
Elizabeth, and granddaughter, Sarah, reframe the story, providing three different portraits of the same woman, and three deconstructions of the mother-daughter relationship.

When the novel opens, Louella, twenty years a widow, still lives on her family’s farm, stagnant. Then she is reacquainted with Sam, a younger man, whom she’s known of, but not really known, for
most of her life. Louella falls in love and comes to life again. In the final months of World War II, Sam joins the US Army, and Louella and Sam marry and move from their small Pennsylvania town to
Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. Through this transition, with the constants of their former lives removed, they discover the space and freedom to get to know themselves and each other more deeply.

The birth of their daughter, Elizabeth, brings unexpected joy, but the shadow of Louella’s past grief deeply affects her ability to love Elizabeth in an unguarded way. Louella never shares the sad
story of her first baby with her daughter, an omission she later deeply regrets.

Throughout the story, we believe in the power of Louella’s resilience, especially when she finds love and a new life with Sam. But we learn through Elizabeth’s narrative that Louella has not
rebounded well from her losses. Elizabeth struggles to understand her mother’s mercurial character, finding it almost impossible to be the daughter she thinks Louella wants her to be, while also
being true to her own nature. When Elizabeth becomes a mother herself, she is determined not to replicate what she views as Louella’s parenting missteps. Only later does she recognize the
complications inherent in all mother and daughter relationships.

Sarah shares her part of the story after Louella’s death, as she anticipates the birth of her own first child. We get to know a different Louella, through Sarah’s memories. Louella, as a
grandmother, was finally able to let go of her grief and guilt more fully. During her pregnancy, Sarah visits a friend, who is a medium, for a reading. Sarah is not expecting insight or connection
with the grandmother she thought she knew so well, but Louella presents herself. Prompted by this mystical experience, together Sarah and Elizabeth discover a letter for Sarah, carefully hidden by
Louella in an heirloom afghan. In it, Louella recounts the pieces of her early life and loss.

The discovery of Louella’s letter illuminates the relationships of the three women, and points to the astounding and unknowable elements in the world around us, and the inevitability of the grief
and joy that shape all of us. The novel closes with a surprising turn: Sarah’s baby is not the girl anticipated, but a boy, whose arrival brings a sense of redemption and peace to the story of
Louella’s loss.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Sarah

Submitted: October 24, 2017

A Robin's Pageant The common backyard robin is a truly ordinary bird. Every morning, from March through November, the landscape is a ... Read Chapter