In Miss Macintosh, My Darling, the first and only novel by Marguerite Young, a young woman embarks on a dreamlike voyage through time and memory in search of her darling childhood nursemaid, Miss Macintosh from What Cheer, Iowa, who has disappeared into the ocean, never to be seen again. Finding herself adrift on a sea of delusion and fantasy, the young woman fervently searches for reality only to discover herself drowning in illusion.
The narrator, Vera Cartwheel, has been reared in a baroque New England seaside house. Her mother, Catherine, an opium addict, is confined to her bed and a world of imaginary visitors when Vera is a small child. In her mother’s “horizontal” existence, every object, from chandeliers to medicine bottles, is endowed with life and becomes a welcomed guest along with such notables as Alexander Pope, Lady Mary Montagu, and Lord Byron. Catherine’s only real visitor is Joaquin Spitzer, her lawyer, who is also the twin brother of Peron, her dead lover who committed suicide years before. Having known Catherine in earlier years, Mr. Spitzer silently endures unrequited love, patiently sitting in the shadows of her room waiting for Catherine’s rare moments of coherence.
Miss Macintosh, hired by Mr. Spitzer as a nursemaid when Vera is seven, is a no-nonsense governess and appears to be the only rational person in Vera’s life. She is sensible and common, forthright and normal, and for seven years, she is both nursemaid and teacher. On the night of her fourteenth birthday, Vera enters her nursemaid’s room only to discover that Miss Macintosh’s reality is far stranger than her mother’s opium-induced dream; she is in fact bald, hairless since birth. A surreal scene ensues in which the nursemaid’s true...
(The entire section is 724 words.)