From the award-winning author of Yellow Wife, a daring and redemptive novel set in 1950s Philadelphia and Washington, DC, that explores what it means to be a woman and a mother, and how much one is willing to sacrifice to achieve her greatest goal.
1950s Philadelphia: fifteen-year-old Ruby Pearsall is on track to becoming the first in her family to attend college, in spite of having a mother more interested in keeping a man than raising a daughter. But a taboo love affair threatens to pull her back down into the poverty and desperation that has been passed on to her like a birthright.
Eleanor Quarles arrives in Washington, DC, with ambition and secrets. When she meets the handsome William Pride at Howard University, they fall madly in love. But William hails from one of DC’s elite wealthy Black families, and his parents don’t let just anyone into their fold. Eleanor hopes that a baby will make her finally feel at home in William’s family and grant her the life she’s been searching for. But having a baby—and fitting in—is easier said than done.
With their stories colliding in the most unexpected of ways, Ruby and Eleanor will both make decisions that shape the trajectory of their lives.
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (February 7, 2023)
Hardcover: 384 pages
I had a feeling I was going to enjoy The House of Eve from the start--historical fiction is my jam. I had to keep reminding myself not to order it from my monthly book club subscription because I had signed up for the tour--especially hard when publishing got delayed for the very good reason that it was picked for Reese Witherspoon's book club and it started generating lots of buzz. It's great when a book gets a lot of hype, and ends up deserving it. Sadeqa Johnson has written a compelling story about strong young black women and the hardships and choices they faced in the 1950s.
Teenage Ruby doesn't have an easy life, left to live with her aunt when her uncaring mother's boyfriend focuses his attention on her. She is studying hard to gain a scholarship and be the first one in her family to attend college when she meets a young Jewish boy and their hidden relationship results in pregnancy. Eleanor is attending Howard University when she meets William, studying to be a doctor and from one of the upper crust black families in Washington DC. They are in love, but his mother doesn't approve and isn't happy when pregnancy speeds up their marriage plans. Their stories are told in different ways, Ruby's in first person and Eleanor's in third person, which I wasn't sure was going to work, but it did. Both of their stories and how they dealt with their circumstances were engrossing and I found myself quickly caught up in their plights.
The House of Eve is not a light read, but it's a good and ultimately hopeful one. I appreciated the author's afterword about how she came to write the novel and the lack of information compiled and published on unwed black women. She noted, "I'm drawn to writing historical fiction because I feel charged to tell the truth about American history, whether grim or happy." Sadeqa Johnson is a talent and her storytelling has me moving her novel, Yellow Wife, up to the top of my TBR pile.
Author Notes: Sadeqa Johnson is the award-winning author of four novels, including Yellow Wife. Her accolades include the National Book Club Award, the Phillis Wheatley Book Award, and the USA Best Book Award for Best Fiction. She is a Kimbilio Fellow, former board member of the James River Writers, and a Tall Poppy Writer. Originally from Philadelphia, she currently lives near Richmond, Virginia, with her husband and three children. To learn more, visit SadeqaJohnson.net.
There were food mentions throughout the book such as scrapple, okra, and fried fish, tuna salad, chocolate-covered pretzels, ice cream and candy, chicken soup with matzoh balls, pastrami sandwiches, spaghetti, seafood salad, wilted spinach, cocktail shrimp, cheese and Ritz crackers, stew, avocado with vegetables, sweet tea, biscuits, crab cakes and sunny-side-up eggs, and poundcake, pies and baked goods.
When William is seeking forgiveness from Eleanor, he brings her a big piece of carrot cake from the bakery. It made me crave a good carrot cake, and so I decided to showcase these carrot cupcakes I made back in 2009. They lean to the healthy as they are from a spa cookbook, but they are delicious--the pineapple and applesauce make them very moist.
Carrot-Pineapple Cake with Apricot Cream Frosting
Adapted from Cooking With the Seasons at Rancho La Puerta
(Makes one 8-inch cakes or 12 cupcakes)
The book says, "Most carrot cakes deliver healthy ingredients with loads of fat. In this very simple, moist cake, applesauce is substituted for the usual oil, and crushed pineapple adds moistness and flavor. The cake is delicious even without the creamy frosting--try serving it lightly dusted with powdered sugar, alongside a citrus salad or fresh pineapple."
zest of 1 orange
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup applesauce
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups grated carrots
1 1/4 cups drained crushed pineapple in juice
1/2 cup shredded coconut, sweetened or unsweetened
Apricot Cream Frosting:
6 dried apricots, cut into 1/4-inch dice
4 oz Neufchatel or low-fat cream cheese
1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly brush an 8-inch pan with oil.
Beat the eggs with the orange zest and sugar until thick. Stir in the applesauce and the vanilla. Sift the flours, baking powder, and baking soda into a large bowl. Stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture, then fold in the carrots, pineapple, and coconut.
Spoon the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool completely.
To make the frosting, soak the apricots in hot water until they are very soft. Drain thoroughly. With a hand mixer, whip the Neufchatel until smooth and fluffy. Beat in the powdered sugar and the 1/4 tsp vanilla, fold in the apricots. Spread the frosting evenly over the top of the cooked cake, and cut into thin wedges to serve.
Note: The cookbook suggests variations such as adding 1/2 cup golden raisins, soaked and drained to batter, sprinkling the chopped apricots over the cake instead of mixing them in the frosting, adding chopped pecans to the batter, or making it as a loaf cake or cupcakes.
Note: A review copy of "The House of Eve" was provided to me by the author and the publisher via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.
You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and learn what other reviewers thought about the book below.
Book Review Tour Stops:
Friday, March 3rd: @bookmom22
Friday, March 3rd: IG: @mamabookwormreads and TT: @mamabookwormreads
Friday, March 3rd: @addictedtobooks86
Saturday, March 4th: @stephreadsalot on TikTok
Monday, March 6th: @notinjersey – REVIEW
Monday, March 6th: @storytimewithshelbs on TikTok
Wednesday, March 8th: @subakka.bookstuff – REVIEW
Wednesday, March 8th: @lindahamiltonwriter on TikTok – REVIEW
Thursday, March 9th: Run Wright and @karen_runwrightreads – REVIEW
Thursday, March 9th: @bookdragon217 – REVIEW
Friday, March 10th: 5 Minutes for Books – REVIEW
Friday, March 10th: Kahakai Kitchen – REVIEW
Monday, March 13 th: Helen’s Book Blog – REVIEW
Tuesday, March 14th: Books Cooks Looks – REVIEW
Wednesday, March 15th: @rachellelovesbooks – REVIEW