There’s a running joke at my job about this book. Most teachers there hate it and almost all kids hate it. And yet, people keep teaching it. I labeled an email “Another thought I had about Ethan Frome” to a colleague and then cut and pasted the entire text of the novella to them in the body of the email, which should be fun if I ever get FOIAed.
Anyway, I love this book and think it’s really good. I also understand why kids don’t. Not only is it one of those books that mostly gets taught because it’s short, it’s taught to kids who usually can’t handle (as a group) the maturity and subtlety of the subject. Kids also hate cheaters.
So the story is told from the perspective of a new visitor to a town in Massachusetts. He’s staying at a local house and meets a man named Ethan Frome, who is tall and helpful (a man of near middle age) who is also deformed from some kind of accident. After a few short meetings Ethan From sits him down to tell him his story. In the story, from years ago, he was married young to a woman in a kind of convenience and they grew to hate and resent each other in short order. When a niece of hers joins the house as a maid, Ethan falls in love, and so too does the maid. After time, the love is too unbearable and Ethan plots to leave town with her. I won’t say more because I really do think this book is worth reading. But the story is quite sad.
Teenagers are not a group well known to think through heartbreak, cheating, and divorce (or a marriage that SHOULD end in divorce) with complexity (and neither are most adults by the way) and so I think this book is best left to those kids who find it on their own.