Like its name suggests, the small New England village of Starkfield emits a sense of foreboding as the novel, "Ethan Frome," unfolds. The audiobook's isolated, gray and dreary setting aptly mirrors the lives of its three main characters.
The narrator starts out describing a somewhat mysterious man named Ethan Frome, about whom many townspeople have questions, but whose answers are known by few.
The narrator, quite by accident, ends up spending the night in the Frome household after a blizzard forces him to find shelter for the night.
The book flashes back to twenty years ago, when the young Ethan is married to Zeena, a shrewish hypochondriac who brings little joy into the house where they live. Zeena's cousin, Mattie, has come to stay with them. Over the course of time, Mattie's sunny disposition brings more joy and light into the house, as well as into Ethan's life. Circumstances throw Mattie and Ethan together that drive a further wedge between Ethan and his wife, although the relationship between Mattie and Ethan remains as innocent as it could be, given the natural attraction that develops between them.
Both fight against the powerful feelings they have for each other, but Nature and circumstances often find their way, and things happen. In Mattie's and Ethan's case, the impossibility of the situation catches up with them in ways the listener could not imagine.
Thus, the story unravels for both the narrator in the novel and the listener to the "Ethan Frome" audiobook."
It is easy to see why high school teachers and college professors continue to assign this jewel of a novel that has become a classic of American literature, as well as a mirror into human nature, love and marital devotion.
Edith Wharton remains one of the major women writers in American literary history. She was born in 1862 and died in 1937. She wrote more than 40 works, including novels, short stories, poems and non-fiction prose.
She was born into the upper class in New England and lived a life not unlike those found in novels such as "The Great Gatsby." Her insights into not only the ways of the wealthy but into people from all walks of life gave her rich subject matter for her novels.
Her novel, "The Age of Innocence," won a Pulitzer Prize in 1920. She became the first woman to receive an honorary doctorate from Yale University.