I’m getting back up to speed with my small-press reading, and I’ll be posting more reviews shortly. In the meantime, in honor of my dear mother, Barbara Castrodale (1928-2015), I thought I would share this essay about a place central to both of our lives.
The farm in Washington County, Pennsylvania, where my mother grew up, is the setting for much of my second novel, Marion Hatley. It was also the setting of a novel I attempted in my twenties, a work now (justifiably) moldering in my cellar. And it has made cameo appearances in a couple of my short stories.
It was—is—a small farm, taking up just 130 hilly acres of southwestern Pennsylvania. The home at its center is likewise modest.
“I can say that it was not the most comfortable place,” my mother wrote in her memoirs. “It was a frame house with eight rooms, one bath, and front and back porches. There was a basement, which had a floor that was partially dirt. There was no insulation in the walls [until] I was in high school (around 1944 or 1945). … As a child, I can remember getting out of bed in winter, hurrying down the stairs to the living room, and getting in front of the fireplace, the only one in the house, to dress. The windows would be covered with frost so that you could not see out.”