I stumbled upon Gail Ward Olmsted’s books years ago, and ever since they’ve been a friendly hand to hold in my reading journey. Gail is incredible at writing a heart felt story with characters who feel real. It’s a real talent that makes me adore reading anything she puts out. It’s hard to find those authors, but when you do… Cherish them. Enjoy your time.
Landscape of a Marriage was a biographical, historical fiction tale all about Gail Ward Olmsted’s husband’s ancestors. From the minute I met the main characters, I figured Olmsted had to be a family name. If you get the chance to pick up this novel, read the Author’s Notes in the back. It’s truly incredible how stories and families inspire us. I really enjoyed taking a peek into this ancestry, even if some of this story is more fiction than not. Obviously, we wouldn’t know 100% what would happen in that relationship. Either way, it was a miraculous and fabulous story.
Now, onto the actual story:
We meet Mary abruptly. She gets an urgent message to come home; a call to action. Her husband John died suddenly at 32, which brings such a sad start to this story. Once Mary gets home, she reacquaints herself with John’s brother Fred. As things go, she ends up marrying Fred. It starts out as a marriage of convenience (with him being a bachelor and all, and her having three young children to care for). Eventually, the two begin falling for each other. Like every normal relationship, there are ups and downs. Fred’s a busy man, being an architect and all. He made so many famous buildings along the way! How does a family that’s growing and dealing with love, loss, pain, injury and illness keep it together? Well, they work hard and try their best.
There’s a lot of interesting set-up in this book that foreshadows the future:
- Everyone looking at Fred on Mary and Fred’s wedding day gives you hints towards how their relationship might play out.
- Canada geese – These are murder geese. If you see them, you know it’s bad luck. Well, not really, but I found it funny. Those creatures can be evil and for some reason they are in so many books I am reading lately!
- Naming a son after a man who had a tragic passing… You know what’s going to happen.
There’s also just so many fun parts about this novel:
- The retelling of American history but from the eyes of a woman experiencing it. I really liked how history progressed and how I saw it from the average Joe’s point of view.
- The ups and downs of a long distance marriage where one partner is considerably well known.
- The strong points of views of many characters conflicting each other, and everyone having to reach some sort of consensus.
A lot of this story holds up today, as Gail discusses in her author’s notes. Gender bias, family roles, grief and loss – there’s so much going on in this story, and it feels real. I felt for Mary throughout her story. It’s difficult balancing a family and learning to grow from past losses. This book struck home in all the right places. Mary felt like a long lost friend who I wanted to give a hug. We’ve all been there with our difficulties, and I just wanted to help her. Gail did a wonderful job making her feel real.
Overall, this book is a worthy read. Historical, biographical, contemporary fiction with a dash of romance and drama. This book really does it for me. It transports me away, helped teach me a few things, and made me feel so many feelings. Ah, the feels. To many tears, honestly. In the best and worst ways.
Five out of five stars.
Thank you to Gail Ward Olmsted who provided me a free copy of this book in exchange of an honest review.
Looking for more fabulous and fun reads? Or books that give you all the feels? Check out some of my other faves on my blog:
Second Guessing by Gail Ward Olmsted
Jeep Tour by Gail Ward Olmsted
Guessing at Normal by Gail Ward Olmsted
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