Book Review: The Keepers of the House by Shirley Ann Grau
Getting a cross burned on your lawn is no joke. Ask Shirley Ann Grau, author of the Pulitzer Prize winner for 1965, The Keepers of the House. Grau wrote her novel as a narrative of seven generations of the Howland family and their home in the hills of Mississippi. Along the way she was awful hard on Mississippi in her depiction of the state’s history of racism. Basically, she managed to upset the Klan. Thus the cross … and the burning.
Messing with Grau’s main character, Abigail Tolliver nee Howland, is also no joke. The final chapters of Grau’s book read a bit like the plot for a Michael Bay movie. Things get doused in gasoline (I don’t think that gives away too much), there are shotgun blasts, and hurried rustlings in the nearby woods. It was invigorating. And yet the promise and dread of satisfied vengeance was also stultifying, leaving the reader in an immobile but pressurized dream lending itself to reflection. It was quite an accomplishment on Grau’s part, in execution and intention. I was happy to be reading a book that so carefully crafted a reflective space through an embrace, rather than a fear, of adrenaline. So hooray for her, no joking.