Why Not?

May 25, 2018

It’s funny how much text sources influence my reading. When I want to read Margaret Widdemer, I always go for The Rose-Garden Husband and The Wishing-Ring Man, and that’s mostly because they’re great, and a bit because each one makes me want to read the other, but it’s also a little bit because they’re on Project Gutenberg. If Why Not? was on Gutenberg instead of Google Books, it would go on my list of favorite Widdemer books.

The heroine is Anne Rosamond Gilbert. Her elderly uncle has just died and left her with a modest inheritance, and over the objections of her remaining relatives she decides that she might as well have some fun with it. So she sets out for a lakeside town called Wanalasset, and in short order acquires:

  • a bungalow,
  • an extremely obliging landlord,
  • a niece,
  • two dogs, and
  • a tent to tell fortunes in.

Fortune-telling is half of her intended profession. The other half is helping people realize their dreams. (She’s been practicing on herself.) She accumulates several clients, but the important ones, plot-wise, are Sydney Browne, a woman who wishes she was a man, and Richard Jerrold, a young inventor. Sydney is a tomboy, fed up with Society, and Rosamond sends her off into the country disguised as a boy. This is fun, but the longer she stays, the more she finds herself turning towards traditional feminine concerns, and I can’t decide whether that’s more entertaining or annoying.

Dick Jerrold has just graduated from college, and expected an aunt to leave him money with which to manufacture a motor he’s invented, but instead she left him a hotel. He’s also extremely nice to look at. Rosamond offers to help him run his hotel, and confidently looks forward to falling in love with him, but she’s not really that interested in him or his hotel, because she’s already met John Squire.

Rosamond isn’t quite as good a heroine as rose-garden wife Phyllis Braithwaite or wishing-ring girl Joy Havenith — she’s a touch too confident, which ought not to be a fault, and I do enjoy her charmingly insisting on her own way in everything. She just would have needed to be a little more vulnerable inside for me to really love her. But Widdemer makes up for a not quite as excellent heroine with a more than usually excellent romance. Rosamond and Squire might be Widdemer’s most compelling couple. It’s a pretty standard setup: he’s smitten, she’s oblivious, and they’re very good friends underneath a slightly prickly surface. I don’t know what makes it so charming. It might be that you get a chance to feel like you know Squire pretty well. He has a personality and a backstory that give you a lot without much fanfare. It might be their practical behavior towards each other, especially once Squire has declared himself. It might be that, while there is a misunderstanding — I don’t know if Widdemer could write a book without one — it’s a totally reasonable one, not a secret one that could be cleared up if Rosamond and Squire had a conversation about it (actually they have several).

Anyway, whatever the reason is, I’m very happy with the result. My other favorites among Widdemer’s books might engage my emotions a little more, but this one is well done and satisfying and worth your while.




  1. Why Not is actually my favorite of the three, I think – mostly because “wish for things and the universe will line up and give them to you” is, to me, much less plausible than “try for things and you’ve got a much better chance of getting them or at least something.” And the Squire romance is great. But I do like Phyllis (librarian!) and Joy (because… Joy. And also she is oblivious in unexpected directions and precocious in unexpected directions and I kind of love that.) better than I like Rosamond, for the most part.

    Also, I agree on the Sydney Browne is-it-maddening-or-awesome thing – I love-love-love that she eventually realizes that her one enforced concept of Successfully Being A Woman (society-style) isn’t actually the only way, but some of the other aspects drive me kind of nuts.

    Also, as with all three of the books, there are quite a lot of problems solved simply by being rich enough, which is not a terrifically scalable solution on the whole… but these are fantasy, not life-advice, really.

    (I do wish that Why Not? would get onto Project Gutenberg, though.)

    • I guess I think of RGH and WRM as fairy tales, so wishing for things and having them come true feels right. But I do appreciate Rosamond’s proactiveness.

      Anyway, none of them are really books you can look to for life advice.

  2. I know I’ve read this. It’s in my Google Play library, and I would have immediately read any Margaret Widdemer I downloaded. Even the “cover” seems familiar. So why can’t I remember it? Nothing for it but to re-read, right?

    • That’s fun, right? Getting to read something for the first time twice?

  3. Hurrah! Another Margaret Widdemer book for me to add to my collection. I ADORE Rose-Garden Husband and Wishing-Ring Man, and also The Year of Delight. I’m going to see if I can find a lovely old edition of this and ask for it for my birthday (no Project Gutenberg for me)!

    • I’ve seen a very attractively leafy cover for it on google images–I hope you get it.

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