Eileen’s parents, who had been little more than honorable mentions inBoardinghouse Stew, has now become a more central theme in Times Like These. Through Eileen’s thirteen-year-old eyes, we come to know their rather unconventional personalities. Because they were so different from each other, their relationship, indeed their entire marriage, was on-again – off-again. Eileen knew whether they were getting along just based on the names they’d call each other. “On the rare occasions when things were going well … my father might call her ‘Rosie’ and she would call him ‘Paddy’ or just ‘Pad.’ When things were not going well, it was a frosty ‘Mother’ and ‘Daddy.’ When things were really bad, it was ‘Rosa!’ and ‘George!’”
Having left the boarding house in Sacramento to travel by train to a bleak existence in Shafter, Nevada, Eileen will be spending much more time with both parents. She loves her mother who tries too hard sometimes, who doesn’t try hard enough at other times, but Eileen is just naturally closer to her father. However, George, who is a telegrapher for Western Pacific Railroad, is also a rather heavy drinker. It’s the primary factor causing the division in his and Rosa’s fragile marriage. It also causes him to lose his job as he was responsible for a train crash. Rosa then runs off with his replacement, Archibald Denny. This leaves Eileen to travel yet again to Iowa to stay with relatives that she viewed as strangers.
Yesterday, I reviewed Boardinghouse Stew, giving it a rave review of 5 out of 5. I can’t get behind this novel with the same kind of love. Other than our protagonist, Eileen, who is two years older at its outset, we have none of the original characters which made Boardinghouse Stew so animated and engaging. The novel will actually take us through Eileen’s life from thirteen to nineteen making it feel a bit drawn out. Although the book can be read on its own as there is sufficient background information, I’d highly recommend reading Boardinghouse Stew first. I still enjoyed that the author gave this story a very authentic feel of the history of the time. People were much more genteel and the bartering system was still being used among co-workers, friends, and neighbors. Rating: 3.5 out of 5.