The Rose-Garden HusbandSeptember 4, 2009
I finally followed a long-ago recommendation from Redeeming Qualities reader Elizabeth and read The Rose-Garden Husband, by Margaret Widdemer. And I love it. It’s so completely up my alley that it’s hard to believe it’s real.
Phyllis Braithwaite is 25, and has been working in a city library for seven years. She’s moved through a couple of different positions, and is now a children’s librarian. She’s worn out and frustrated and having trouble making ends meet. When she sees a girl from her hometown looking happy and wealthy and pretty, with two adorable children in tow, she gets even more depressed. She wishes for money and a husband and a rose garden, and something, somewhere, hears her.
The next day Phyllis is invited to have dinner with her friends the De Guenthers, a wealthy elderly couple, who have an interesting proposition for her. Their friend Mrs. Harrington is dying, and she wants someone to look after her son when she’s dead. Her son, Allan, is about four years older than Phyllis, and has been mostly paralyzed since a car accident seven years back, which also killed his fiancée, Louise. She’s interested in Phyllis for the job, but she doesn’t want her to be a nurse; she wants her to be Allan’s wife. I mean, of course, right?
And Phyllis is okay with the idea.
So the De Guenthers introduce her to the Harringtons. Mrs. Harrington is kind of morbid, and apparently enjoys wallowing in her misery. Phyllis is horrified when she learns that Mrs. Harrington goes into Allan’s room to cry (and so am I). Allan is listless and–Phyllis thinks he looks like a crusader on a marble tomb. From the first mention of Mrs. Harrington’s proposition I knew how this story was going to turn out, obviously, but it’s only from that line that I knew it was going to be awesome.
Really, though, everyone knows how this one goes: Mrs. Harrington dies, Phyllis moves in, and her bright personality and experience with kids make her much more fun for Allan to be around than his purposely miserable mother. Phyllis rents a house in the country–with a rose garden attached, naturally–and puts Allan in regular clothes instead of pajamas and they fall in love with each other, and take a little while to figure that out, and it’s lots of fun. A+, Margaret Widdemer.