Beyond the Bedroom Wall


by Larry Woiwode
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $12.50
Here is another ambitious project, but in this case ambition is met with success. Fragments of the book have been appearing independently as short stories for the past several years; it is surprising to see them come together with such impressive effect. This is the chronicle of several generations of an American family in its passage from North Dakota farmland to the small towns of Illinois to the cities of the Midwest and beyond. The events of the novel are the very ordinary ones of every family’s existence the births, deaths, marriages, the growing up. Woiwode evokes each moment in language of pure, cleanly wrought beauty until it is made to seem both universal and extraordinary. At one point, a character recalls her mother churning butter, making beds, and she sees “how these simple acts were given dignity and significance” by her mother’s hand. Though the phrase applies to housework, it can just as well be invoked to describe the deeply affecting art of Beyond the Bedroom Wall.
-A. H.