"Over the Plain House" by Julia Franks

"It was her story to own, not his" (Franks, 25)

"Over the Plain Houses" by Julia Franks was published on May 1,  2016 by Hub City Writers Project of Spartanburg, SC. When I went to their Annual Writers Conference, this book found me. I wasn't sure why was drawn to this book  because the story seemed completely opposite from my life. How could I understand a story about a woman married with a family living in the mountains of North Carolina during the Great Depression? Yet, when I read it I couldn't put the book down. 

Although the book changes chapter by chapter switching from the viewpoint of Irenie and her husband Brodie, the story and main focus is about Irenie.For me, "Over the Plain Houses" was about a woman's individuality in marriage. 

Can a woman retain her identity and independence after being married for several years and having a family?

For me, Marriage means  compromise not sacrifice. Yet, in some marriages, women lose their individuality, their sense of self. It's not their fault, when the tragedies of life that so often occur step in they begin to change. The question is will the tragedies of life bring them together or cause a separation? It is fear and separation that happens through a lack of communication that can create a divide that so often can never be mended. 

What happens to then to the freedom that the original spark of love creates?

"Only now she wasn't pick a boy who would take her to a future life. She was picking the life (Franks, 251)

As with every young woman she had her choice of suitors a choice of men that she could marry when she was old enough. The timeframe being what it was, a woman in the 1920's couldn't choose a career or a life, she chose a man who would take her to her future life. 

In the due course of life and in the wake of  tragic accident that her husband suffers, he gains money and states  " After reading that line I knew that whatever happened, it was confirmation that whatever he did for her was not true love.

"Had God meant for Mary to serve Joseph?" (Franks, 102)

Julia Franks brings the reader into the growing separation of relationship yet at the same time goes deeper into their past. Was there a specific reason for their separation? The fear that propels Irenie's husband Brodie's fear of losing her when to him she was already gone "she (Irenie) wasn't meant to be his" (Franks, 35-36).  

For me a pivotal scene was when Irenie has a conversation with her Father about the relationship between a man and wife. His advice rings true for any and all relationships, "Every creature belongs to it's own self... Every creature feeds off of every other because its got to survive" (Franks, 103). We need others to survive but can never belong to another person because we are not property. 

"Women were as much like God as anybody else.  That he made both of them to contain some part of himself... a man doesn't own a woman. But whether you accept the terms of agreement seems to me up to you." (Franks, 104).

The fathers words and the message he tries  to convey to Irenie provide advice to the women reading the story. For me, his advice meant that women are individuals who define and decide our fate no matter what the circumstances or situation. 

The tragedy of the story was found in Irenie's husband Broadie. The salvation of religion, what saved him, was also what caused his demise. He "cared about good and evil, and  forgot it was the  Lord's responsibility and not his own" (Franks, 266)

The story "Over the Plain Houses" by Julia Franks  could have occurred today. Julia Franks works brings you into this world and put a spell on you. The themes were riveting that  brought up all sorts of thought provoking  questions about love, life, how women are perceived. The type of thought provoking questions that could only be answered by a person reading the book. 

"Over the Plain Houses" by Julia Franks has a feminism theme that can be related by anyone who knows that the story of her life, is the most important and valuable possession she can own. The freedom of a Sophisticate comes from living her own life on her own terms regardless of anyone else. In the end, as Julia Franks writers her story she teaches the reader that alone or married, a Sophisticate belongs to no one and her story is her own. ;D