Florence Osmund's Nineteen Hundred Days, The Carriage House and Daughters

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Mothers who disappear. Fathers who die. Mothers who are in jail. Parents with hidden identities. And children who search and yearn for their parents and try to find, if not them, substitutes. The quandaries do not end there. Husbands with other families. Organized crime threatening safety.  Diverse racial and religious identities within families.

Florence Osmund is fascinated with identity and family. In The Coach House and Daughters, paired novels, and Nineteen Hundred Days, she disturbs the smooth surface of the life of her characters. She takes away their safety and then allows them to develop the strength to create safety for themselves.

 

She told me, “Characters Marie and Ben are confronted with safety issues, both physical and emotional, beyond what most people face in their daily lives. The level of safety they feel is directly related to the risks they take.”

Families ground and direct us, whether we remain or rebel. The complexity of the characters’ emotions reveals choices that were difficult and with relationships that remain complicated. Marie Marchetti, the main character in The Coach House and Daughters, discovers that important people in her life are not as she thought they were, whether her mother, her unknown father or her husband.

Ben, 12 years old, in Nineteen Hundred Days, finds that the fragile security his parents provided is shattered after an accident, when left on his own, he must assume a protective role for his six year old sister Lucy, far beyond his ability.  Ben thinks, “Over the years, I’ve learned there’s really no point in getting too angry about unfairness….it seemed Lucy and I faced a pretty bleak and hopeless future.”

 

Florence commented, “The most significant similarity between Marie and Ben is that they were both risk-takers—Ben risking his physical safety, and Marie mostly her emotions. They each were vulnerable when they found themselves in a precarious situation, and their immediate reaction was that while they didn’t know exactly what to do, they knew they needed to do something quickly. Courage and self-discipline played a role in each of their plights.” 

Marie discovers strength within herself as a daughter and as a wife, and Ben as an older brother, both searching for family, in different forms. We see examples of how families provide security and protection while others fail, devastatingly, to provide this needed element.

Both Marie and Ben are left on their own through the death of their parents. Loving neighbors take in Marie, while afraid authorities will separate him from Lucy, Ben struggles to survive, placing them both in dangerous situations.

Those left alone or separated from family often search for family unrelentingly. That is the case here.  Both characters have difficult decisions to make about their futures. Marie confronts organized crime and racial identity within her family. She discovers that important people in her life are not as she thought they were, whether her mother, her unknown father or her husband.

When his parents don’t come home, Ben is both angry at his parents and desperately wanting them to take care of him.  Alone, he doesn’t know if he should trust anyone, terrified as he tries to take care of himself and his sister.  Marie and Ben expanded what they knew about themselves, their families and their world. This caused others to judge them in ways that were not easy to confront. The characters grow in strength, in wisdom, as do we, the readers.

Florence spent her working career in business and brings much of it to her writing. She shared, "It’s all about people. In my thirty-year career in business, I worked with such a wide array of people that I have enough material to help me write fifty more novels, not about their personal stories per se, but weaving in their traits, quirks, dialogue, actions, and circumstances." I'm a fan already and hope she brings her novel writing to 50! I'll be looking forward to them all.

After Marie' father has a heart attack,  the entire family moves to healthier but always delicious menus! Try Claire's Healthy Pasta for your family.

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