The narrative of As for Me and My House takes the form of Mrs. Bentley’s diary. The diary entries, spanning two springtimes during the Great Depression, recount a year in the lives of a small-town preacher and his wife in a drought-stricken prairie community. The United Church parish in Horizon is Philip Bentley’s fourth ministry in twelve years. For Mrs. Bentley, the new parish is yet another in a series of communities to which she has had to adjust over the twelve years of her childless marriage. Caught in the inexorable grind of economic dependence, the Bentleys live a life of controlled despair. The dominant mood in the household has taken its toll on their marriage; communication and affection between husband and wife have been reduced to awkwardly formal gestures.
Mrs. Bentley’s defensive reserve is penetrated by Paul Kirby, the local schoolteacher, who becomes a regular companion and dinner guest. Paul amuses the Bentleys with philological trivia, which breaks the oppressive silence of their home. He also introduces them to Steve Kulanich, a motherless boy abandoned by a profligate father. When the Bentleys adopt Steve, Philip begins to shake off years of spiritual emptiness and physical inertia. Philip’s elation, however, is short-lived, for two months later, two Catholic priests come to claim the boy on religious grounds, and they take him to their orphanage.
Once Steve has left, the Bentleys’ spiritual health deteriorates further, and Mrs. Bentley eventually becomes so physically ill that her friend Judith West must perform the...
(The entire section is 647 words.)