Thursday, March 17, 2016
Review: The Hours Count
Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were the only US civilians ever executed for espionage. To this day, their guilt is doubted by many. The couple left behind two small children. Jillian Cantor imagines the events leading up to their arrest and execution through the eyes of a fictional neighbor dealing with big problems of her own. In the 1950s, little attention was paid to children's development. Millie knows that her son is not like other children his age, but she does not know what to call it or what she can do to help him.
While this is a possible version of what happened with the Rosenbergs, it truly focuses on the powerlessness of women. We see Millie and Ethel try to make good lives for their children, while being left in the dark about the activities of their husbands. These are the same men who control what money, if any, they have access to and can do things like move the family or send away a child without any input from their wives. Their lives and futures are determined by their spouses and by men they have never even met in the FBI and KGB. The women are isolated and lonely. Millie finds some hope in her friendship with Ethel and in possible help for her son David from a psychologist named Jake.
This is a book that is both heart-pounding and melancholy. The book opens on the day that Ethel is scheduled to be executed and we see Millie make one last-ditch effort to save her friend. As she drives desperately, she thinks back on her relationship with Ethel and the events that have brought them both to this moment. But the past itself is lonely and tragic, as the two women wonder if they will ever have any sort of control over their lives.
The Hours Count
By Jillian Cantor
Riverhead Books October 2015
From the library