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From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Thousand Acres: the powerful and deeply affecting story of one woman’s life, from post Civil-War Missouri to California in the midst of World War II.
When Margaret Mayfield marries Captain Andrew Jackson Jefferson Early at the age of twenty-seven, she narrowly avoids condemning herself to life as an old maid. Instead, knowing little about marriage and even less about her husband, she moves with Andrew to his naval base in California. Margaret stands by Andrew during tragedies both historical and personal, but as World War II approaches and the secrets of her husband’s scientific and academic past begin to surface, she is forced to reconsider the life she had so carefully constructed.
A riveting and nuanced novel of marriage and family, Private Life reveals the mysteries of intimacy and the anonymity that endures even in lives lived side by side.
that the fishermen in the boats “looked Oriental.” He had seen others looking at the ships in the yard “too minutely and longer than tourists would do” on six occasions. He had seen a man writing things on a pad. When he approached the man, the man “hastily” put away his pad and “hurried off.” On several occasions, when he was walking down the beach, cars above him on the side of the road “hurriedly drove away” as he scrutinized them. Everything was scrupulously dated, including time of day and
nutritious and good for the digestion. But there was nothing he loved more than new information. Their little house was a riot of books and papers. The first ferry of the morning (which arrived before 6 a.m.) brought all the current editions of the San Francisco Call, the Chronicle, and the Examiner. Of course there was the Vallejo paper also, and if you scoured Vallejo, you could get the Sacramento Bee. Dozens of copies of Scientific American sat by the kitchen door, where Andrew left them to
who discovered the existence of infrared radiation; it was he who made many of the telescopes in use in England; it was he who would have ratified Andrew’s own discoveries, if only he had lived to see them. Double stars had once, Andrew told her, been hurtling about space as the sun does, solitary, accompanied only by random satellites, but these stars had exerted a pull on each other in passing and captured each other. Margaret’s letters to Lavinia were long and cheerful. She listed all the new
frightening after all, and Andrew pulled on his boots and left the room instantly. She came over to Margaret and put her hand on Margaret’s forehead. She said, “You’re fine. No fever. You’re just fine.” She put her hand on Alexander’s forehead, then his cheek. She said, “I don’t know if you’re a praying woman, but you might start.” Margaret had been staring at Mrs. Wareham, but now she looked at Alexander. His eyes were open, and the whites of them were indeed yellowish—she could see it more
Gentry and his family to watch the parade from the windows of the newspaper office, which was closed for the afternoon. To Margaret, Robert Bell was a disappointing sight. He had enormous muttonchop whiskers that only partly disguised his receding chin. His hair was thin and flyaway. His eyes were his best feature, rich blue and much more expressive than his words. He was nicely dressed. But he was considerably shorter than Beatrice—the top of his head came only to the middle of her ear. He made