(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Rich in Love is the account of a six-month period when the seemingly predictable lives of the Odom family are changed forever. The novel is divided into thirteen chapters. The first-person narrator is Lucille Odom, who was a seventeen-year-old high school senior when these events took place. Throughout the book, Lucille stresses her opposition to any alteration in the family. Her opposition to change may well be one reason that she does not bother to take her examinations so that she can graduate from high school. However, in the last two pages of the novel, which serve as an epilogue, it is evident that during the two years that have passed since that difficult time, Lucille has come to realize that change is not only inevitable but also often best for all concerned, including Lucille herself.

The book begins on May 10, when Lucille arrives home to find that her mother, Helen Odom, has left home. In a note to her husband, Warren, Helen says that she intends to start a new life. Although she promises to telephone, Helen leaves no clue as to where she has gone. Warren immediately starts to look for his missing wife, a difficult task, since she is unconventional enough to have gone almost anywhere. Lucille is as anxious as her father to find Helen; like him, Lucille is convinced that if they could just bring her back home, everything would return to normal. Nevertheless, they cannot find her. In fact, Helen remains absent throughout four-fifths of the novel. Although she finally allows first Rae and then Lucille to come and see her, Helen does not go back home until the family is threatened with tragedy, and even then it is not to stay.

As soon as their mother vanishes, Lucille contacts her older sister Rae, who is working in Washington, D.C., and demands that she return to Mt. Pleasant at once. However, Rae seems to have problems of her own, and she will not agree to come before the sixth of June. When she does arrive, what she meant becomes only too clear. She has just been married to Billy McQueen, who is finishing his...

(The entire section is 839 words.)