Maris // by Grace Livingston Hill


//published 1938//

So sometimes I’m just in the mood for a book that is 98% fluff, and Grace Livingston Hill frequently fits that bill.  While some of her books are bit too preachy or a bit too saccharine sweet, she has also written stories that fit some of my favorite tropes in a way that make me happy.  Maris was one that edged towards the preachy end of the spectrum, but still managed to pull through as a decent one-time read.

Our story starts with Maris waking up one morning, contemplating her engagement – her wedding is only a few days away, and Maris is suddenly beginning to have niggling doubts about the wisdom of the decision she has made.  Little does Maris know, but, like Job, her whole world is about to fall about that day.  Within just a chapter or two, her mother has been stricken with a nearly-deadly heart attack, her little sister comes home with the measles, her other sister is found eating ice cream with a boy of an undesirable reputation, and probably a few other difficulties that I’ve forgotten.  And at this point of difficulty and struggle in her life, does Maris’s fiancee step up with understanding and sympathy?  Decidedly not!  Indeed, Tilford (seriously?  Maris and Tilford?) instead shows his true colors to be that of a selfish whinybaby.

As the story unwinds, Maris faces the difficulties in her life with bravery and maturity and self-examination, while Tilford continues to pout that things aren’t going his way.  Eventually, Maris breaks off the engagement and, in the end, finds true love in the form of the boy next door who is, of course, a diamond of the first water.

Overall, this was a fine little tale, and there were some actual good conversations and thoughts in it.  But because we meet Maris and Tilford at the moment in their engagement where she is already starting to wonder if she has made a good choice, it is hard to believe that their engagement ever made sense.  Starting this story earlier in the timeline and allowing the readers to see Tilford when he was actually being charming and winsome would have made the story (and Maris’s struggle) make a lot more sense.  Instead, we only ever see Tilford at his worse, which means I spent the whole story super confused about why Maris ever liked him to begin with.

All the feminists would hate this book, I’m sure, with Maris’s entire life revolving around home and family, without a thought to any position beyond that.  Tilford, upon multiple occasions, tells Maris that she must obey him because she is his fiancee, although in fairness, this is part of the reason Maris ends the engagement.  (Hill isn’t clear if Maris feels that she shouldn’t have to obey her husband, or if she simply doesn’t think she could obey Tilford!)

Of course, Hill cannot seem to write a story without going to extremes, and there is a lot of melodrama to keep things moving along.  Maris’s brother is Hill’s favorite stereotypical younger-brother-who-steps-up-to-shoulder-the-manly-mantle, complete with slang and scorn towards Maris’s erstwhile lover; her father is quiet, hardworking, and determined that his family shouldn’t realize how much he is sacrificing his health to make sure they have all the good things they want; mother is a saint; high school sister is teetering between rebellion and maturity (if only Maris was around more to help her through these difficult times!); younger siblings are there for noise.

And while I am completely cognizant of the fact that this entire story is pretty much exactly like every other one of Hill’s tales, I still thoroughly enjoyed all of the adventures, including the kidnapping and dramatic rescue.  This was definitely not a book I’ll ever bother reading again, or even one that I would recommend, but it’s one of those random one-offs that are just fun enough that I don’t feel like I’ve completely wasted my time.  ;-)