Cover image for The House on Eccles Road
The House on Eccles Road
Kitchen, Judith.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Saint Paul, Minn. : Graywolf Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
221 pages ; 22 cm
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What if Molly took center stage in James Joyce's Ulysses ? What if she lived in suburban America?

The House on Eccles Road

It is June 16, 1999, in Dublin, Ohio, and Molly wanders through her empty day while her husband, Leo, tends to a strict and busy professor's schedule. On the surface of her thoughts, Molly wonders: Will he remember their anniversary? And how many hints should she give him? As Molly and Leo circle each other throughout the day, Judith Kitchen illuminates the scope of Leo and Molly's life together detail by detail. Molly is offended by the hot June day, hums Irish tunes, considers an old love;Leo thinks about his star pupil, young girls at the tennis court, his aging father. Both, if differently, mourn the loss of their four-year-old son eight years ago.

In this momentous novel, Kitchen weaves these and other voices into the tapestry of a single day, an ordinary day in the lives of ordinary people, yet a day that, by gathering the threads of all they have been, might change their lives forever. Strange, Molly was thinking, how we go through our lives on remote control. But as she drives toward town, a quick glance at a fatal car accident, which has slowed traffic to an agonizing crawl, brings her to the precipice.

Author Notes

Judith Kitchen attended college in Vermont. After graduating, she worked as a part-time secretary, an assistant in a carnival supply business, with the New York state Poets in the Schools, and finally as an instructor at SUNY College at Brockport. For twenty years, she served as editor and publisher of the State Street Press Chapbook Series.

She wrote several books during her lifetime including Perennials, Writing the World: Understanding William Stafford, Only the Dance, Distance and Direction, Half in Shade: Family, Photography, and Fate, and The Circus Train. The House on Eccles Road won the S. Mariella Gable Prize in fiction. Her work has also won the Lillian Fairchild Award, the Anhinga Prize for poetry, and two Pushcart Prizes. She was the co-director of the Rainier Writing Workshop with her husband, Stan Sanvel Rubin. She died of cancer in November 2014 at the age of 73.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

In crafting her own version of Bloomsday from Molly's perspective, essayist Kitchen (Only the Dance) establishes straightaway that she does not intend to duplicate James Joyce's famous Ulysses soliloquy but to offer her own interior, quietly detailed, feminist gloss. Kitchen's Molly Bluhm is 51. Since the tragic death of her four-year-old son, Arjay, exactly eight years ago, she has been inconsolable even her love of singing Irish folk songs has deserted her. She spends the day of June 16, 1999, waiting in her remodeled farmhouse on Eccles Road (renamed Larch Lane) in Dublin, Ohio, for her professor husband to give a sign that he remembers the significance of the date. Off teaching, he does not, but Molly decides she will not allow Leo's neglect to "get in the way of her life." Kitchen fluently channels her narrative through the voices of characters Molly encounters over the course of the day the demanding, begrudging Marcie, Leo's daughter from his first marriage; a pregnant neighbor, Jackie; a former admirer and music director, Ted Boyle, who is delighted to hear that Molly intends to sing again and agrees to meet her later. Kitchen's writing is powerfully direct, though the inherent claustrophobia in such a tightly packed story is compounded when Leo and his academic proteg, Steve, begin to bandy about the "interiority" and "intensities" of Molly Bloom's soliloquy. Molly finally comes to recognize that her life can no longer consist of waiting for Leo, and an invitation to sing again onstage at the pub underscores her newfound independence. Even this over-plotted ending does not spoil the quiet celebration of Molly's coming of age. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Eight years after the death of their only child, Molly O'Rourke and Leo Bluhm are still tiptoeing around each other. While Leo is able to lose himself in academia, Molly has found it impossible to resume work as a singer. Both continue to mourn, albeit separately and wordlessly. This intense premise is rendered with amazing grace as Kitchen, the writer in residence at SUNY at Brockport, uses the occasion of the couple's 13th anniversary to explore themes of grief, loss, and loyalty. Her prose is poetic and breathtakingly beautiful. As the story unfolds, readers witness the intersection of past and present, learning ways that relationships are distorted by history and tainted by memory. What's more, by focusing on a single day (much like Ulysses, which it hints at), the novel captures both the nuances of routine and the serendipity of chance. Indeed, one cannot close the book without wondering why some of us are granted long lives and professional success while others are not. The winner of the publisher's S. Mariella Gable Prize for a previously unpublished novel, this work is recommended for all libraries.-Eleanor J. Bader, Brooklyn, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.