Pub. Date: Feb. 1, 2011
Publisher: Red Hen Press
I tried to get out of the assignment. Prenatal visits to a prisoner? Okay, house arrest, same difference. I couldn’t believe that I was supposed to take care of a woman whose child died in a cult ritual. What kind of mother could get so involved in an oddball religion that she’d let her baby freeze to death? And what kind of name was Pippa?
Don’t get me wrong. Every patient deserves expert and compassionate care. Even the most despicable criminal. I learned that in nursing school and I believe it, really. Still, this assignment gave me the creeps.
Emily Klein is a home-care nurse assigned to Pippa Glenning, a twenty-something woman who belongs to a cult that worships the Egyptian goddess Isis. Pippa’s on house arrest while other members are in jail after her daughter and another toddler die during a worship ceremony. At first it seems like the two women are so different but in fact Emily and Pippa are very alike- running away from their past in hopes of never having to face it. Though the two are strangers to each other Pippa is hoping that Emily will help her escape for a few hours to be a part of the next Solstice ceremony. There’s a lot at stake for Emily if she helps – the loss of her nursing license, her job, family, and the chance of possible prison time. But for some unknown reason, Emily is considering helping Pippa.
At just over 200 pages Meeropol packs a lot into this story of two women. There’s the Klan that haunts Pippa’s childhood, the activist parents of Emily’s past that almost killed a man, the politics behind Pippa’s house arrest and the way the local government deals with the crimes against this cult, a niece with spina bifida and much more. With so much going on in the story you think there would be times that the story would become overdramatic. Instead readers get this absorbing story told in a plain straightforward way.
One of my complaints about this story deals with the main character, Emily. As a child her father was sent to prison for burning down a building. Unknowingly there was a janitor inside who was badly burned and almost lost his life. Emily’s mother was the mastermind behind it but her husband took the full blame. Years later both die – one from guilt and the other from the prison’s lack of medical care. On the island that Emily grew up on, she was an outcast. There weren’t many people-children and adult alike-who would let her forget that her father was in prison. Fast forward to the present and Emily was this woman who could be so immature and naive at times. When her grandfather dies and she needs to go back to the island of her childhood, she’s pouting almost the whole time. This doesn’t seem like the same woman who’s willing to help someone break the law. When she finally makes her decision on whether or not to help Pippa break the law, I couldn’t figure out what helped her to make her decision.
Even with its faults, I think this is a book I would recommend to others. If you have a few free hours and looking for quick but absorbing read, you couldn’t go wrong with House Arrest.