Under the House

Under the House: Leslie Hall Pinder


Parentage, birthright and are just the tip of the iceberg of the issues brought to light in “Under the House.” Some grow up knowing who there parents are while others remain in the dark. Two women torn apart with a huge difference in their ages both not knowing who there father is. Family secrets can tear apart the members creating lives that are carved out of distorted patterns and leading them to living lives that deny them the ability to make choices and have the same opportunities afforded to others. Maude is our main character as we meet her as a child learning about her hopes and dreams and what happens to her in school, her mother’s reaction to her birth and the resentment of her brother Stanley towards her. As the years go on we learn more about Maude as she marries but does not seem happy and is summoned home by her father. Learning we find out that the family owns a Canadian farm and her brother would like to exile her from the family and keep the farm for himself. Overprotected as a child and keeping a family secret, there is much that she reveals about a basement in their home haunting her waking hours and reminding her of someone else. Meeting the family you find them cold, stark, austere and sedate. The father runs the family, the mother seems to be a typical matriarch and the two sons not very warm to Maude as she appears to enter a world where in reality she is an outsider. The discussion at dinner is about the Cairn that their father wants to erect. In order to create some type of monument to the family’s heritage and name he asked his children to return to decide what to inscribe. Defined as a  mound of stones erected as a memorial or marker S.D. their father wants their input as to how to create this memorial and why.


Then a startling revelation as Stanley manipulates his father into tearing up his will after he explains how he wants his estate divided. Stanley is cunning, mean and cruel as he reveals something to Maude about her parentage and she learns a harsh truth sending her off into another world of her own. Waking up the next morning and finding Kathryn looking after her she seems disoriented and unsure of where she is and what transpired. Enter Muriel and Evelyn and things take on a different complexion as Stanley marries Muriel and Evelyn is now uprooted to another town and a new school. Stanley is different and as a stepfather controlling and demanding. Evelyn is astute and realizes that something is off about him. While Maude leaves her parent’s home and leaves her secrets buried in the cellar along with her thoughts. The truths that she reveals to her mother are permanently locked away for a while. Then Evelyn meets Clarence her stepfather’s brother and is put in charge of his bird: His Majesty. What happens would rock the world of any young child as a tragedy occurs and Evelyn is inconsolable. Evelyn disappears and does not appear for dinner one evening and Stanley seems unnerved and Muriel upset. Ida was their child and he seemed unsure of how to deal with her but still she was his own not like Evelyn. Stanley had his own perception of Evelyn thinking she would take advantage of him and want his money. Returning home she states she left a note but Stanley convinces her mother she is lying. Moving ahead three years we meet Evelyn again and get to know her connection to the notes on a piano and seem to connect to her and Clarence. Feeling out of place and not really a part of anything or anyone. Mean, controlling and not really making her feel wanted Stanley took his place as the head of a very cold and unhappy family. Just what Muriel sees or saw in him is baffling except for his money. He reminded Evelyn of a cold stone that she would like to kick. Moving ahead we realize that her mother tried to get her some help when thinking something was wrong with her and next we learn that she had taken to drinking leaving Evelyn in serious trouble. An incident in school would really change things for Evelyn as she wanted to find out who her father was and a picture that she held dear and she ran for life to save it. Evelyn finds herself in a difficult situation and feels like she buried deeper within her own thoughts and mind. As she stands up to the teacher and the principal her mother arrives and takes her home. What happens next is quite compelling as she’s led away and taken home only to be sedated by a doctor. Finally we learn that Evelyn is shoved off by Stanley wanting to control not only her but his family in general. Then Evelyn is sent away to school and finally has some type of life but still feels alone when it comes to the girls in the school. Muriel speaks out to Stanley and the end result she realizes will only give her grief. Never speaking about Maude or anyone that makes him angry she agrees to send her child away and then feels she is happy. Then we move ahead to 1958 and her grandfather S.D. passes away and she is summoned to come home.


Author Leslie Hall Pinder takes the reader inside the minds of the Rathbone family allowing us to hear the voice of S.D. before he dies and understand just how much Stanley is like him. Added in the fact that the author mirrors him after his father and Kathryn seems to be a weaker link as time goes on. What happens when Evelyn and Maude meet steps up the plot bringing it to a strong conclusion. Evelyn gets her second or you might say first wind when she invites Maude to their home after the memorial service for S.D. Stanley and Muriel taken aback do not want to embarrass themselves yet do not want her there. Stanley in his crude way informs her that the will has nothing to do with her and she will collect nothing. Mercenary and heartless totally concerned with his  wants and needs he tends to alienate himself from anyone that does not benefit his him. Maude has no idea who her father is and neither does Evelyn as this will bond them together. Then Evelyn decides to run away with Maude and together they piece S.D.’s torn will and she enlists the help of her favorite teacher who gets then legal help in case it’s needed. Stanley has phoned the police as she ran away and is trying to cause more trouble for Maude. As the story draws to a close and the courtroom scene unfolds the author takes us up close into the mind of Stanley as we watch his dreams fall apart and the lies and deceits unfold. Just where everyone winds up and what happens in that courtroom in Saskatchewan you have to read for yourself. What does Isabel reveal in her diary at the end and what will be the final outcome be: That still remains to be revealed. Under The House: That’s where all the secrets are buried and much more. As Maude and Evelyn team up together to learn the secrets that have left them feeling isolated, alone yet becoming stronger author Leslie Hall Pinder leaves the reader wanting to learn more about this family, the women and what’s next for the Rathbones. What is Stanley’s final decision and what happens when a truth is revealed that he does not expect? Maude will always be that overprotected little girl trying to live her life without any discord. This is one book that will leave you wondering just how far will one man go to get it all.

Fran Lewis: reviewer


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