September 8, 2016

Rainbow After Rain by Janet Lambert (1953)

A longtime collector of Janet Lambert's books, I recently gave up the twenty-year search for the missing volumes in my collection, and ordered them via Image Cascade. It's so exciting to finally be filling in the pieces of the long and involved Parrish/Jordon family series.

Rainbow After Rain (1953 - #25) directly follows Don't Cry, Little Girl, in which Tippy Parrish's beau Ken Prescott is killed in action in Korea. Tippy spends the second half of the book trying to deal with her grief, her family's sympathy, and the still-devoted Peter Jordon, who has been in love with Tippy for years.

As Rainbow After Rain begins, we find Tippy Parrish working as an errand girl at a television studio. Her sister Penny invites her out to a swanky lunch and calls her "cherub," a term of endearment Ken had picked up as well. 

"She was suddenly lost and lonely. High above New York with its rush and noisy commotion, its crush of people all trying to go somewhere, climbing to success like a lot of pygmies scaling a ladder, she was just a small, disappointed girl with no particular ambition, staring out at a summer sky."
Penny has an exciting opportunity for Tippy--to play a part in Penny's new play. But Tippy demurs the offer. She is living at home with her parents, her beloved dog Switzy and Trudy, who, as always, has words of wisdom to share. She talks with Tippy about Peter Jordon and Tippy goes upstairs to contemplate the two pictures on her dresser of Ken and Peter. She's terribly muddled about her feelings for Peter. He was so kind to her when she was grieving, but does she feel more for him than friendship?

At work, Tippy's boss breaks her leg and Tippy needs to take over and work much harder. In the midst of the hot August a poor, overworked Tippy gets a call from Peter letting her know he's coming home on leave. Tippy is excited and brings her prettiest dress to work to meet him. A little sweet banter:
"'Oh, Peter,' she said, 'you do look as beautiful as you said you would.'
'I'm a handsome cuss. By reversing all accepted standards, I could win first prize in a beauty show.' His nice grin flashed down and he held her away to look at her. 'Boy, oh, boy, you're something to see,' he said, and hugged her so hard her little hat went off the back of her head. 'I'm the proudest guy in New York.'"
They go out for dinner and make plans to spend more time together in the coming days. As they chat, Tippy reflects: 
"Dear, companionable Peter, she thought for the hundredth time in the last few years...solid and predictable. As dependable and even running as an electric clock. She sighed a little."
Tippy notes his references to his happy bachelor life, and finds herself puzzled and a little disappointed. Meanwhile, Alice Jordon Drayton is enjoying married life to Jonathan Drayton. Loving both Tippy and Peter, and wanting to help them achieve the same kind of happiness she has, she comes up with a plan. She invites Christy (Jonathan's pretty sister) to visit as well. "'She can make a play for Peter that will knock Tip for a loop.'" Then it turns into a big house party, the first of Alice and Jon's married life.

As happy as she is in domestic life, Alice still has a bit of sassiness to her. She tells Jon about a visit she had from a census taker who asked her occupation.
"'I said, 'I'm a home executive.' I am. I think 'housewife' is inadequate. Running a home, not just a house, takes execution. And management, and a lot of brains.'"
Jon, being the enlightened husband he is, agrees completely. Peter and Tippy arrive, and soon the four are joking around as usual. Tippy loses a race, and Peter decides her forfeit is a kiss, but Tippy delays the forfeit. Christy arrives, and is pretty and charming, and Peter notices. Tippy notices Peter noticing and feels some strange pangs of jealousy.

Peter and Tippy go off on a picnic together, but with much reluctance by Tippy. She and Ken had many happy picnics together, but Peter makes her go, and keeps pushing her despite her increasingly surly attitude. She eventually blows up at him and Peter says: "'Blow another gasket, kid, it'll do you good.'" And it does, as her tantrum releases some of her tension and anxiety.

They head back to Alice's for the party, where Alice has a treasure hunt planned. Christy and Peter are paired together, and Tippy gets more pangs of jealousy. But Christy wants to return to her own beau and hangs up her part in Alice's scheme. The foursome head to the beach and another race and another forfeit takes place.
"Peter just stood and grinned. 'Forfeit delayed,' he said in such a low tone that Tippy felt a delightful quiver of anticipation. He wasn't pining for Christy!"
At the beach, Peter shares the news that he has to go to the Pentagon and decide whether he will go to the Far Eastern Command or to Turkey. He hopes that Tippy has some ideas about his decision, especially since his going to Turkey means he could get married and bring his wife, but Tippy hides her feelings.
"There wasn't really any way to figure it out, so he obeyed his longing and slide closer to her. 'I think I'll claim my forfeit now,' he said, twisting her around. 'Sit up, childie, and take your medicine.' And he pressed their lips roughly together."
There's no comment on how Tippy feels about having her lips pressed roughly against Peter's. 

Back at work, an actress is out, and the producer wants Tippy to step in, She refuses, but finds a coworker who will do the part beautifully. She quits her job, still in a muddle about her life and what she wants to do. She visits with Penny, with whom she has a heart-to-heart about Peter and Ken. Penny says;
"'You have to face things. You'll never know what life with Ken might have been. You'll never have the chance to know. It might have been very beautiful, or you might each have changed and found someone else before it came time to be married.'"
Penny reminds her that "it takes two to bring about a marriage" and Tippy heads off to do a little pursuing of Peter. She stops at Alice's and before she can prepare herself, Peter is there, and she flies off the handle again. He calms her down, declares his love, and:
"she bent over to wipe her eyes and cheeks and even her wet trembling lips on the hem of her cotton skirt. 'I look so awful,' she wept again, coming up. 'But I--I love you so much. Oh, Peter, will you marry me?'"
He said as soothingly as he could, "'Stop crying, Tippy! I'd be very happy to marry you.'"
"Her lips came up to meet his in the first real kiss he had ever given him. It was a kiss of love--tender, passionate, and clinging; and it made him know, ever more than her words had done, that her heart belonged to him now, completely and without reserve."
He gives her a "miniature" of his West Point ring, and she wants to get married immediately and return to Texas with him. But the family and Peter talk her down, thinking that she wants to marry before she changes her mind. As the book ends, Tippy puts away Ken's picture and tells Peter that she wanted to marry him immediately because she was frightened of losing him as she lost Ken. They kiss, and fade out.

This book has a really interesting plot running through it. I feel suspicious that fifties sensibilities and the return to homemaking life for women is pervading this series. Although Penny is still a successful, hardworking actress, Alice seems content to stay at home creating a home with her husband. Tippy seems easily dissuaded from working, although by all accounts, she is good at her job. Her boss, Miss Turnbull, seems to be the fifties spectre of the working woman, the spinster who is obsessed with her job because she has nothing else going on in her life.

Again, Janet Lambert's gifts are in her creations of solid, realistic relationships. The turning of a grieving Tippy to patient Peter could easily be a tenuous, unrealistic connection based on her loneliness, but Lambert works hard to create a connection between Peter and Tippy that is based on friendship and real love. It's a lovely payoff for both characters.

September 7, 2016

Don't Cry, Little Girl by Janet Lambert (1952)

While Tippy Parrish eagerly awaited the arrival of Ken Prescott, she dreamed of love and marriage. And when she found his sentiments to be the same as hers, her happiness bubbled over. Then, quite suddenly, Ken's leave was cancelled. With a heavy heart, Tippy put away the lovely tablecloth she had purchased for their game of make-believe at being married.

As Tippy bravely say Ken off to Korea on the morning plan, she gave some serious thought to the months that lay ahead. She would learn how to knit, to sew, and to cook, against the day when they would be reunited once again. She would write him regularly, and look forward to receiving his precious letters.

Busy with school--with comforting Peter Jordon and the weekly hops at West Point--time did pass. But one day, the world almost came to an end for Tippy, and all her hopes were shattered . . . This is one of Mrs. Lambert's most unusually charming and appealing stories. (from the inside flap)

Let me refer you to the last line of the inside flap blurb: "one of Mrs. Lambert's most unusually charming and appealing stories." Spoiler: the blurb writer has a very strange idea of what connotes charming. Of course, the books are all charming and appealing, but this novel has some incredibly serious emotional heft to it.

We open as the Parrishes are driving from New York to Washington, D.C., bringing Tippy to meet Ken Prescott on his quick leave before he heads to Korea. They check into a hotel (with two rooms and a sitting room for proper entertaining) and set to discussing Tippy's relationship with Ken.
"All the Parrish children were accustomed to discussing their feeling with their parents. Happiness always bubbled out of them in gay little fountains; and when they were drenched in a sudden shower of sorrow, they ran for comfort and loving advice."
Tippy eagerly awaits Ken's arrival at the hotel and finally there's a knock on the door:
"'Cherub,' he said. And Tippy ran straight into his outstretched arms.
'Oh, cherub, darling,' he breathed as his lips met hers and that was the kiss Tippy had worried about, and a proposal of marriage, all rolled into one."
Tippy and Ken talk to the Parrishes about love and marriage, go on a picnic above the Pentagon, and plan for the future. Although Tippy considers them engaged, Ken is realistic about the fact that Tippy is just eighteen and Ken is headed off to war in Korea.
"'I'm going into a war, Tippy; but I'm coming back. Your love will bring me back. Just keep thinking and knowing we'll have all the rest of our lives together. We will.'"
After their picnic, they drive past Arlington Cemetery, where Ken asks casually if Tippy's ever been there. Tippy has; lots of times. When they return to the hotel, they engage in a fanciful pretense that they are an ordinary couple, relaxing at home. They're having a lovely time, when Ken's bosses call and tell him that he is heading out the next day--a few days earlier than expected. As they say their goodbyes, Tippy reflects:
"'For two whole years, I've gone around all mixed up and dissatisfied. I didn't know what was wrong with me; and now it's just as if a bright, dazzling light had been turned on and I can see.' She caught her breath with a little gasp and said as she let it out, 'I didn't know love could do this to you.'"
Ken leaves and Tippy is sad but elated at her newfound love and their future together. She breaks the news to Alice, and to the always understanding Peter. Tippy goes to college, but is bored with it. She tries domestic housekeeping, learning to sew and cook (not very successfully.) She visits Peter at West Point, who is again, very understanding. She makes a few friends at college and sets one up with Bobby. Then, Alice breaks the news that she will be marrying Jon Drayton in June. David gets his orders to ship out, and Ken continues to write.

We get a brief look into Ken's life in Korea as he writes his Christmas letter to Tippy:
"Tippy couldn't know that Ken had taken his precious rest hour to scribble that last note; that grimy, aching from fatigue and cold, he had sat in a bombed hut with its windows out, its roof blown off, holding a cup of hot coffee in his hands to warm his stiff fingers enough to hold a pencil."
He writes another letter as well, one that is much harder to write, the one that reads: "To be mailed in the event of my death."

Christmas comes and goes and Tippy is not receiving any new letters from Ken. The family begins to make cautious inquiries through the Pentagon, but no news. She is snowed in at school one day, and has a lovely time, riding in a sleigh up to West Point for the weekend.

While she's having a marvelously gay time, the family gets the news that Ken has been killed. Mrs. Parrish speaks to Peter, with Tippy for the weekend, and asks him to break the news to her, that Ken died of wounds after he'd been evacuated and placed in a hospital behind the lines.

And very gently, he does. Penny's husband Josh comes to get her and brings her and Peter home to the Parrishes. Tippy is quiet and still, and won't cry. The family agonizes, and Trudy steps in with some hard truths and love.
"'You can stay in this room for all the rest of your life, but you ain't ever goin' to see him walk in that door with his eyes shinin' an' his arms held out.' She pushed deep into Tippy's numbed emotions and stirred them to a sluggish wakefulness."
She finally breaks down and cries, and Peter carries her down to the living room, where he watches over her. She is grieving, and finally Ken's last letter reaches her. He asks her not to cry, and not to grieve too much:
"Love me always, as I'll love you wherever I am. Keep me deep in your heart; but let the love we've had lead you on to another love that will fulfill the good life we planned."
Soon, Peter's graduation and Alice's wedding are approaching, and Tippy gets through them all. The book ends with Peter making a mild declaration of love.
"'I'm such a different kind of guy. But I love you, Tippy. I'd do my level best to make you happy.'"
And the book ends, with Peter's hand warm in hers, and "only her heart wept in the silence."

Don't Cry, Little Girl is moving, emotional, sad, poignant and heart-breaking. Lambert really digs into the family relationships and how grief affects the family and friends and how hard it is to know how to help heal. Again, some really lovely writing about love and marriage, and Ken's letter is wonderfully eloquent and generous.  Even by today's standards--perhaps especially by today's standards--Lambert's writing about love and relationships is unusually wise and complex and insightful.

September 1, 2016

Miss America by Janet Lambert (1951)

A year in another country can be a very, very long time, and Tippy Parrish is not at all sure she is going to like the changes time has wrought on this side of the Atlantic. For one thing, pretty clothes cost much more than they did a year ago. And people have changed too: Bobby, unpredictable brother Bobby, wants to leave West Point to go into advertising; and Alice Jordon, Tippy's beloved "Alcie," seems just a shade distant, with a secret she doesn't care to share.

But most painful of all to Tippy is that her dear Peter Jordon keeps getting lost behind a smoke screen of memories raised by handsome Lieutenant Ken Prescott whom she left behind in Germany.

Tippy is frankly bewildered. Then out of a clear sky, war in Korea looms, and the entire Parrish clan is forced into making some pretty important decisions. How does Tippy handle the situation? In her very special "Tippy" way--and what could be more fascinating! (from the inside flap)

We open with the return of the Parrishes to New York, with the whole family greeting them with great excitement and love. Penny reflects on Tippy:
"She was such a lovely combination of all the Parrishes. Dark eyes and brown hair had blended with blue and blond, and had turned to gold for Tippy. She was all cream and gold, but for her curving red mouth that had winking dimples at its corners."
Tippy is excited to see Alice and Peter waiting for her as well. [Sidebar: Through these novels, people keep calling Alice "Alcie" and when I was a young person, I always thought it was a massive typo.] Tippy decides to go home with Alice and Peter instead of her family and thinks about Peter, "the boy who had topped her list on Governors Island."
"Clean-cut, with fine gray eyes. Not handsome--when matched against a certain young lieutenant she had known in Germany--but with a firm trustworthy mouth, and the same sweet smile she had remembered. His light hair was a little longer and crisper than its one-time boyish crew cut, and it softened the stark plane of his cheek and made him seem--seem ... Tippy giggled inwardly at her quick, pleasurably summation of him ...darned attractive."
Through these novels, Peter goes back and forth in Tippy's estimation between handsome and not quite handsome. Depends on the day, I guess. Alice and Peter bring her back to General Jordon's house on Governors Island. Peter, fully aware of his competition in Ken Prescott, kisses her hello and prepares her for the fact that he, too, has been dating. Alice fills Tippy in on Maxsie, and Tippy fills in Alice on Ken. But Alice evades questions about other boys she might have seen while Tippy was gone (for example, Jonathan Drayton), while Tippy suffers pangs of jealousy about Peter.

After Tippy has a rough night of homesickness, she and Alcie get up and go shopping for beautiful dresses. They meet Gwenn at the Waldorf, where Maxsie is lunching with Gwenn. At the lunch: "Tippy wondered where she came in. She was neither ultra-smart nor happily unconcerned."

Tippy returns to Penny's apartment, where Penny gives her some new evening dresses and a new fur coat. Tippy remarks at Penny's kindness and Penny shares a few wise words:
"'Don't ever willingly hurt people, Tippy. If they hurt you, try to see what makes them do it. Turn your thoughts into their thoughts and try to see what circumstances make them behave as they do. Josh has shown me how to do that.'"
Mrs. and Colonel Parrish are in Washington, as Colonel Parrish recovers from his recently re-injured war wound. Penny and Carrol and their families have a plan to buy the Parrishes a house near both of their stately estates. Tippy convinces Carrol and David to come up to the Point for a hop, and Tippy has a wonderful time with Peter.

Penny and Tippy head out to the new Parrish house, which Tippy is ready to decorate for her parents, and receives her first letter from Ken Prescott, addressed to "Cherub darling." Tippy almost collapses for joy, and then sadness as she misses him.

Good news soon comes, as Switzy, Tippy's beloved dog who was a present from Ken, is soon to arrive in America. She goes to visit Peter, and he hopes to take her down the path to the Kissing Rock. She evades in a very honest way, and they have a talk about their possible love. Peter ends with "'You're the tops, Tippy, the cream. You're the girl I want.'"

Tippy's busy preparing the house for her parents, which is supposed to be a grand surprise. But when her mother calls and sounds exhausted, Tippy shares the good news. Her parents returned and are pleased with the house, which is a suitable place for Colonel Parrish's retirement. All is well until the family learns that Bobby is doing very poorly in his work at West Point. This book's significant heart-to-heart (every Lambert book has one that is particularly important) is between Tippy and Bobby, as they talk very seriously about his career in the army, and how he's not sure it's for him. Tippy enlists Peter to talk sense into Bobby.

Winter plods on and there is talk of war, especially from the television set the Parrishes have purchased for their country home. Tippy briefly considers the idea of becoming a WAC--after all, if Bobby leaves the army, someone has to take over. Bobby graduates and becomes a first-classman, and it's June Week. Tippy meets Jonathan Drayton at Alice's party, and finally finds out how close he and Alice have become.

The threats of war have become real and North Korea invades South Korea. Tippy and her mother discuss the upcoming war. David has asked to be recalled, and Carrol is ready to follow him anywhere. Colonel Parrish is looking lonely to Mrs. Parrish in his civilian clothes. Penny and her mother have an interesting discussion about war, as they discuss the atom bomb and the destruction they saw in Germany.
"'Oh, Mums,' she said, with tears in her eyes, 'how are they going to stop it?'
'I think women will,' her mother answered quietly. 'I think that, someday, women, who bring life into the world and so value it more than men, will see that the peace is kept, and their children grow up to normal lives. The Russian women love their children, Penny; the North Koreans, the Germans, American, British, French. Women are all alike the world over. We must have more of them in politics. That's the way to stop war.'"
Yes, Mrs. Parrish! Represent! Tippy and Peter have another thoughtful talk, and then she and her father do the same. He gives her a letter from Ken where he lets her know that he is off to war, but would love to see Tippy, if her father thinks it's wise. Despite her plans with Peter, she is excited to see Ken before he goes off to Korea. The family plans to go and see Ken in Washington to give Tippy and Ken more time together.

Tippy novels are not quite as delightful as Penny novels. She's not quite as engaging a character, and she has a heck of hard time. Always the baby, the afterthought, teased by Bobby, and dragged halfway across the world by her parents. Plus, all of the romantic drama between her two army beaus. This feels like a transitional novel. There's such a sense of dread, as war is approaching, and Ken is heading off to the thick of it. There's also the growing pain of having your dear friend be more ready for love and commitment than you are--I think of Anne, and her relationship with Diana, in the same way. It's a novel of adjustment, as she returns from a war-torn country to one on the brink of war. It all feels very expectant.

The Reluctant Heart by Janet Lambert (1950)

Penny Parrish, glamourous, successful young Broadway star, didn't want the part! Even though Josh, her husband-manager, had undertaken to produce the play with her in the leading role, still Penny preferred the country and the two babies. Let Neda, beautiful little schemer that she was, play the part; she, Penny, was happily safe in her love, her home, her children--and there she would stay.

That she was being selfish never entered her pretty head. That Josh missed the gay, enthusiastic, ambitious young actress he had married five years earlier just never occurred to Penny until it was almost too late.

What roughly awakened her to danger, what swept the play to success makes such fascinating reading that Janet Lambert's older group of readers will find THE RELUCTANT HEART especially interesting. (from the inside flap)

The Reluctant Heart opens with Penny gardening at her home in the country. Now 26 and the mother of two, she is enjoying life at home while Josh toils away in the big city in the theater. Trudy, though, is not approving of "be-kind-to-Penny day." While Mrs. and Colonel Parrish are away in Germany, it falls to Trudy to tell Penny all about herself.
"'You think I'm unhappy because I'm married to a producer and someone else is going to star in a play that he bought for me. Well, I'm not. I haven't even looked at the play. I don't want to go back to the theater because I'm happy here in the country. It's what I chose.'
'Seems to me you're protestin' a lot,' Trudy returned placidly, 'and seems I can remember you tellin' Mr. Josh that you could run this house and act with your hands tied behind you.'"
Penny contemplates her happiness, her love for Josh, and asks advice of the photographs of her family showcased in every room. We get a bit more background on the family, and I can't not mention when Parri meets the new dog, who they've planned to call Steadfast.
"'He's Dog,' Parri crumpled up on the grass with a mass of sudden wriggling love on her lap, and explained as carefully to her mother as her mother always explained to her, 'His picture is in my book. It says he's Dog. He is.'"
Adorable child logic. Penny plans a little matchmaking between cook Minna and gardener John and studiously avoids the aforementioned play. She eagerly meets Josh when he returns from the city.
"'I missed you so. You can't go in tomorrow.'
'I can't? Who says so?' Josh pulled on his brake and leaned out to kiss her deeply.
'I do. Wow!' Penny drew back and staggered, her eyes crossed. 'What a kiss!' she cried. 'Is that what you practice in the city?'
'It's what I think about but keep like loose change in my pocket.'"
Scenes like this make me wonder why no one ever bought these novels for the movies. The story of Josh and Penny would be a great series--although maybe not enough action for Hollywood. Josh and Penny discuss the play, Penny's decision to stay home, Josh's allure to actresses, and in particular Neda, who is taking over the role meant for Penny until Josh suggests:
"Then what do you say we get our money's worth out of our extra-wide box spring with oversized mattress and sheets that cost twice as much as a regular pair?"
Wink, wink! It's the fifties now! No more side-by-side twin beds?  But they continue their discussion and recapping their past history in and out of the theater. Carrol and Davy come to visit and play--and Penny worries over Davy, as his legs are still in braces from polio. She's worried that Parri will play too hard with him, but he is tougher than she thinks. And Carrol reassures her:
"'I can't breathe for him, Penny,' Carrol reminded gently. 'Not for the rest of his life. Davy has to grow up and be a man, you know.'"
Carrol and Penny go grocery shopping together, where Penny is buttonholed by a social-climbing neighbor who wants Penny to perform a monologue at her party. When Penny manages to weasel out of plans with her, the neighbor leaves her with this:
'"I'll expect some good tickets for opening night,' she leaned over to whisper coyly. 'Of course, I'll pay for them, but I trust you to see that I have eight or ten in one of the first three rows. We must give our Mr. Parrish a royal ovation.'"
This conversation, and Penny lying about how much help she is to Josh, causes a customary Penny Parrish crisis of faith. She returns home and reads the play and is anguished, thinking she no longer has the ability to act. Josh comes home and calms her down. She throws herself into helping him with the play, possibly even more than Josh wants. She even invites Neda down to the house for a working house party, which Penny wears herself out preparing for.
"By six o'clock she was ready. Parri looked like a red and white valentine in her new smocked dress, Joshu like a Schmoo in his night gown. She herself was the very charming country hostess, very informal in pink linen, and very, very tired."
However, Josh and Neda don't show up until 9:00, along with Brooks Cameron, the stage manager for the play. Neda is barely out of the car before trouble begins to rear its head. Penny sends Josh to broils steaks for dinner and links arms with Neda to welcome her.
"'Poor dear, she shouldn't have to when he's so tired.' Neda looked proprietary as she pulled back and waited. She was hooked to Penny but she waited for Josh with almost wifely concern and helped him out of his jacket with her free hand. Penny was too happy to notice."
Penny offers to take Josh's jacket, but "Neda kept it. 'I may slip it on if it gets cool,' she answered."

We have only just met Neda and my hackles are rising like crazy at this scene. Even Brooks notices Neda's attentiveness, but Penny seems to miss it altogether.
"He had had a brush or two with Neda's wiles and knew of several others, two of whom had been her husbands. The child beside him was no match for Neda Thayne--especially if she stuck to the country and her mother role."
Penny sets up for the living room rehearsal, and eagerly awaits helping Neda and Josh with the play. However, Neda refuses to act in front of Penny, and Josh backs her up, sending Penny away.
"It was like patting Parri when she was sent off to bed, and Josh hated it. For one mad moment he was tempted to hurl his script at Penny, to shout, 'Come back here! Come back her and get on the set where you belong! This whole darned business is your fault!' But he only stood and watched her cross the hall."
The weekend becomes far less fun. I love this line from Trudy: "'Miss Neda's a mighty pretty girl, but from what I've seen through the kitchen window she don't know much more about actin' than Dog does.'"

Finally the weekend is over, and Josh goes back to town.
"Penny drove Josh to the village next morning, and while they waited in front of the drug store, she remarked, 'I feel as if I'm sending a nice present to Neda--neatly wrapped in a gray suit and tied with a hand-painted scarf from Sulka's.'"
Josh runs into David on the train and they have a heart-to-heart about Penny. David asks why she's not pulling her weight in the family, especially since she was so devoted to the idea of being an actress. Josh gives him some outdated (even at the time) business about how women are meant to be wives and mothers, but David retorts with, "Yeah, but Penny didn't play with dolls much as a kid."

As rehearsals continue, Penny begins to feel more and more left out.
"Neda had become very sure of herself. She tossed in cozy little remarks like, 'Josh, you wretch, the other evening when you were up, you left a cigarette burn on my end table.' And over dinner in the room, she said, 'It's going to be hard if Josh ever stops paying my expenses. He feeds me all my meals in town and gives me board and room in the country.'
Penny didn't like the 'if Josh stops paying.' She preferred 'when.'"
Josh is increasingly worn out from the rehearsals and comes home late and exhausted. And then, he doesn't come home at all. Penny calls everywhere and not finding him, decides to head to town. Not out of anger, but because she is sure that wherever he is, he needs her. She takes the train and a couple of giggly girls on the train tell her they have a bet on whether she is Penny Parrish. But what would Penny Parrish be doing in the country, wearing a "country coat and dotted dress."

She finds Josh in the apartment and tells him that she wants to buy out Neda's contract.
"'I just found out tonight that I have to be in the play. I want to be,' she said, when he was silent.' I want to be with you, and working. The children aren't enough. I found that out, too. Nothing's enough when we aren't together, when I'm not a part of you. Can you see that?'"
Little does Penny know that just that day Neda quit, "or got fired, or whatever you want to call it. She was so lousy we couldn't go on."

Josh was worried that if he came home, Penny would want to ride to the rescue, but she made up her mind all on her own. The next morning, after little sleep and less food (and no stockings for Penny!), they head to rehearsal, where Josh tells Penny the cast will "welcome her like healing sunshine."

Josh tells the cast the news about Neda and introduces Penny.
"'She asked me just now what I intend to call her, and I'll tell you so you won't be surprised. I'll call her Penny, Miss Parrish, stupe, dope, or darling, just as I do at home. And if you hear her fling a rousing 'idiot' at me, just take it in your stride. We're family here.'"
Penny handles everything in a forthright manner, greeting the cast with humility and charm. The big news is that they are going back to the original script, which had a lesser role for the romantic lead. Jervis Travers, the romantic lead, is not very happy about that, but Penny talks to him about how disappointed he must be and tries to keep the co-billing for him. Penny even goes to talk with Neda, who is not easily placated, even when Penny offers to put in a good word with the producer of a new comedy.

Rehearsals take over their lives and they work incredibly hard, since they have only a short time until opening.
"Josh was completely happy and completely mad through it all. He did inquire for his children's health when she telephoned them, but she was sure he didn't hear what she answered."
She teases him that he doesn't even remember who she is, and she does her best to remind him.
"He rested his elbows on the table and watched her strike a tabloid pose, the tip of her show just touching the floor, knee bent, dress pulled up to show her leg. 'I wonder how I've missed seeing you around,' he said. 'You're a honey. Could I make a date with you sometime?'"
So cute. Nick and Nora, look out! They travel to Philadelphia for the opening, and Penny brings the children, which results in mostly happy chaos, although Penny hates the idea of leaving them.

She wishes: "I could be like a man and have neat pigeonholes in my heart. Business in this slot, family in the next one. I wonder if women will ever be able to do it?'
And Josh responds: 'Probably, after they've been in business as long as men have. They're still rather new at it.'"

The opening goes fine in Philadelphia and they return to New York for the official opening. Josh gets a letter that he does not share with Penny:
"'Carrol's sick,' David had written, and sent the note in by special messenger. 'Don't know exactly what is is--nervous crack-up or something. I know how busy you are, but would appreciate it if you could come out when the play gets running.'"
 Josh calls out to Gladstone and talks to David. Davy is out of his braces, and Carrol who had been so calm during the whole thing, has been having panic attacks (though he doesn't call them that). That day, she passed out completely and they had trouble reviving her.

Josh finds Penny during the acts, and although he doesn't tell her about Carrol, "he pulled the V in her robe a little nearer the center of her small curved breast and added lightly, 'Lord, but I'm glad you're so bubbly and know how to let your worries out. I'm even glad you're a little nutty.'"

The play is a great success, and they drive out to Gladstone to see Carrol. The diagnosis is that she was so strong during Davy's illness that once he recovered, she collapsed. Penny prescribes lots of activity and time with baby Lang, who Carrol feels that she's neglected.

Carrol's illness gives Penny pause and she decides to bring her children to New York with her.
"A family meant being together, she reasoned, even if is had to be in the middle of a crowded city. Cities had parks where children were taken to play, and apartment houses had elevators that were just as exciting as stairways."
A mild misunderstanding takes place, where Josh thinks that Penny is pregnant when she's only talking about the new apartment. But it all works out. Then, just as Penny is happily apartment-hunting, Terry Hayes shows up at the theater. Since Josh is out in the country, Penny invites Terry to go see an apartment with her. Her loyal dresser, Ma Harkins, is suspicious about Terry stopping by and warns Penny not to let him stir her up. Penny dismisses her concerns and heads out to the apartment.

In the cab ride, Terry mentions that he was married but doesn't say anything further. She invites him to dinner and he reflects:
"Terry Hayes loved Penny because she was so completely herself. All her thoughts poured out, her feelings; and she had often reminded him of an artist's palette that was daubed and splattered with bright colors. Each mood was a bright splotch until it was mixed with another, blended into a startling combination or toned into a shade."
Terry asks Penny if she's happy and talks more about his marriage. He says that he married his wife because she reminded him of Penny. He declares his love again, and Penny feels pity for him. When he gathers her into his arms, she says:
"'Please don't,' she said, when his hand touched her cheek. 'I'll kiss you if you want me to, but I'd rather not. It would be like a stage kiss, with my mind on other things.'"
She goes on:
'I don't know just what you expected me to do--throw myself into your arms and tell you I've been pining away for five years, or to be cheap and sly. If you want me truthful, I'm truthful. I'm sorry for you, terribly sorry, but I don't think you quite believe all this yourself. You're simply putting on an act.'
His hands grasped her wrists and pulled her up. His grip was strong and she whimpered, 'Oh, Terry, you're hurting me.' Then his lips crushed against hers.'"
The super comes back and Penny leaves for the theater, telling Terry: "We can't have dinner together, now. You aren't a Terry I can know."

Josh comes to the theater and Penny falls on him, telling him about the kiss and how they can't rent the apartment she saw because Terry was there and it's all ruined. Josh calms her down, saying:
"Things like this happen, darling, and we can't wrap ourselves in cellophane to keep life from touching us. The little events don't matter and can't hurt us as long as we know our love is too strong to be hurt."
Josh talks her down and Penny sends Terry an orchid (the private joke that they have for when they fight). Josh and Penny plan to invite him to dinner. Meanwhile, the family settles in at their new apartment, Carrol is doing better with her nerves, and West Point cadet Bobby pops in:
"'Good morning,' he said, ignoring her shriek. 'You may not remember me, but I'm Robert Parrish. I've been told I have a sister living in New York and I brought a photograph along so I could identify her.'"
Bobby's stopped by to give the good news that Colonel, Mrs. Parrish, and Tippy are coming home from Germany. Tomorrow! Trudy will be going back to her beloved "Miz Parrish" and preparations are taking place when Parri falls down in the bathtub and cuts her head. Penny takes care of Parri and still makes it to the theater on time. Talking to Josh afterwards, she's pretty proud of herself. Having juggled so much so responsibly, she asks if he thinks she's finally grown up at last, and he laughs.
"Penny loved the safe haven of his arms and rested her head against his shoulder. 'I've changed my mind,' she said, 'about this being silly way to learn a living. It's a lovely, happy way.'"
A note from Janet Lambert, from
The Reluctant Heart (Grosset & Dunlap, 1950)
And end book! As Janet Lambert says in her introduction to the book: "For My Older Girls," this is a book that handles some pretty grown-up issues of love, marriage, careers, children and how to balance them all successfully. I love that the answer is not for Penny to stay home with the children, but that the best thing for her marriage is to work side by side with her husband in the theater.

I also love that when Josh spouts off (not very convincingly) about women being made to be wives and mothers, David just as casually shoots that idea down. Even Carrol, the paragon of beauty and love and motherhood, can't keep it together forever.

I love that there is serious, realistic drama in Penny and Josh's marriage, with the appearance of the very real threat of the cunning actress Neda, and Penny's changing reaction to her. Also, Terry Hayes coming to town and confessing his love to Penny, which sends her into a tizzy, is so beautifully handled by Josh. I think it's fascinating how they look to Penny's parents as examples of a strong marriage, but that their marriage is not a carbon copy. It's strong, but in a different, more modern way, and a beautiful example for anyone to follow. In addition, Penny is such a charming, fun character and it's exciting to see her grow up and become a really competent grown-up, career woman, and wife and mother.