In telling her snowbound story of doomed love, Wharton doesn’t waste any time with extraneous plot or long-winded internal monologues. In prose that is distilled to its descriptive essence, the cold and isolation of the New England setting is nearly tangible.
Circumstances have conspired against Ethan Frome, a struggling farmer who is unhappily married to Zeena, a sickly, disagreeable woman. When her cousin Mattie comes to live with them as Zeena’s caretaker, Ethan’s spirit is rejuvenated but when Zeena determines to send Mattie away, as they say in the movies, tragedy ensues. Wharton creates vivid, sympathetic characters. An excellent book, though no escape for a wintertime read.